Saturday, 24 April 2010

Comply fully with RSPO

Letter: Comply fully with RSPO

The Jakarta Post Fri, 04/23/2010

It is hard to comprehend why some palm oil companies in Malaysia and Indonesia still do not understand why their members receive much international criticism. (See “Indonesia-Malaysia producers may decide to ignore RSPO”, the Post, April 21)

Perhaps I can help them. The core issues are simple to explain and for most people to understand.

The palm oil industry has been responsible for destroying millions of hectares of rainforest and wiping out tens of millions of animals in the process.

The palm oil industry is responsible for the deaths of many thousands of orangutans and about 1000 currently being cared for in rescue centers.

Such facts may not be of any concern to these companies, but they matter to consumers who have every right to insist the products they use or consume do not contribute to such wholesale and wanton environmental destruction. Consumers have a choice, as do palm oil companies; you can be either part of the problem or part of the solution. Customers are increasingly using their buying power to avoid being part of the problem.

Finally, there is the question of integrity and trust. Even Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members working, in theory at least, to quite stringent regulations, have been caught breaking the rules.

Now, if any palm oil company thinks a consumer would for a second trust a “certificate” conjured up by a bunch of RSPO renegades sat around a table in either Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, it could prove to be a very expensive error of judgment on their part.

The really smart palm oil companies will comply fully with the RSPO, it makes good commercial sense to do so, and it is these same companies who will reap the benefits of increased sales as more and more customers move their business to them.

Sean Whyte

the above letter was in response to this article below

Indonesia-Malaysia producers may decide to ignore RSPO

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Wed, 04/21/2010

Major producers of palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia say they may disregard the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) if the international forum insists on raising the threshold on the principles and criteria for certification of mills and plantations.

Indonesian producers have even moved further teaming up with government to establish a domestic forum in a bid to create principles and criteria that are compatible with conditions specific to the country.

RSPO is currently reviewing the certification criteria and may adopt new provisions, which may be deemed too restrictive by most producers in developing countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

A working group under RSPO said the new certification criteria should include routine monitoring of carbon intensity standards in all palm oil plantations.

All palm oil plantation areas, the working group proposes, must produce no more than 35 tons of carbon per hectare and cannot be allowed to be established on peat lands.

The working group is scheduled to meet with all and any stakeholders in Kuching, Malaysia, in May, to decide on these revisions.

Joko Supriyono, the secretary-general for the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers’ Association (Gapki), said six palm oil associations from both countries had agreed to reject the above amendments to the certification process.

“The existing certification process, which includes nine principles and 139 criteria for CPO certification, has already caused many difficulties for the industry … they cost so much and consume so much time, usually a year,” Joko said.

Joko said there were now only three Indonesian palm oil firms that could pass the certification process.

Palm oil producers, Joko said, only controlled about 30 percent of the voting rights in the palm oil forum while the rest were controlled by NGOs, big buyers, and banks.

“We will lose in the voting process … if the forum disregards our concerns, we will walk out and refuse to use our right to vote,” he said.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Bayu Khrisnamurti said Indonesia would soon have its own roundtable on sustainable palm oil. The ministry, he said, is currently working with the office of the coordinating economic minister to draft the provisions necessary for establishing the local forum.

Bayu said the domestic roundtable would be a response to unfair proceedings in RSPO, which had been heavily influenced by European perspectives.

“Some RSPO members are inconsistent. Take Unilever, it did not consult the forum when it made its decision based on reports from NGOs, instead they panicked,“ he said referring to the decision by the world’s biggest palm oil buyer to terminate all deals with Indonesian company, Sinar Mas, due to environmental concerns put forward by NGOs.

Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil, having contributed 44.5 percent to the world’s total output of 42.9 million tons in 2008, while Malaysia was the second biggest, having contributed 41 percent.

As from 2015, the entire group of European Union member states will only import CPO from companies whose production is certified by RSPO. (rch)