Exclusive report from Nurul Hanis Izmir
BANGKOK, Nov 6 -- The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a non-governmental organisation, aims to complement the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification, in transforming oil palm smallholders towards sustainability and at the same time improve their livelihood.
RSPO head of smallholder programme, Ashwin Selvaraj said with the Malaysian government putting in a lot of efforts at getting smallholders to be MSPO certified, the RSPO does very much the same.
“What the RSPO brings in is, access to the international market, and we have that. We have a lot of companies and global brands helping achieve the 100 per cent RSPO certified uptake in several regions,” he told Bernama on the sidelines of the 17th Roundtable Conference on Sustainable Palm Oil (RT17) here today.
He noted that the RSPO would be introducing a new independent smallholders standard to help bring more smallholders onto the bandwagon.
“With the new standard, we have done some roadshows, consultation, and from Malaysia, there are some groups in Sabah, Perak and Johor that are quite keen on getting on board. I don’t have an exact number, but we do estimate a significant increase in Malaysia,” he said.
Ashwin said trading via the new RSPO certified model would benefit smallholders through the incentives, which could be a push for them to move forward to the model.
The new standard is divided in three phases that take approximately three years to complete.
The first phase is the eligibility standard, whereby, if you are producing 100 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches (FFB), 40 tonnes of it can be sold as credits in the market.
An RSPO Credit is proof that one tonne of certified palm oil was produced by an RSPO certified company or independent producer, and had entered the global palm oil supply chain.
By purchasing credits, buyers encourage the production of certified sustainable palm oil.
The credit represents the one tonne of palm oil product in the sense that, for every credit bought, a premium goes to the producer who has put in an effort towards ensuring it is produced according to RSPO principles and criteria.
Ashwin said the second standard or milestone A, 70 per cent (from 100 per cent) can be sold as credits after two years, while in the third phase , milestone B, 100 per cent of FFB can be sold as credits after a three -year period.
“We find that three years seem to be appropriate for them to be certified, but after that period, they can continue to be in the programme for as long as they produce the credits FFB. Throughout this programme, they will also be audited by accredited auditors,” he said.
However, he expressed concern that what could derail smallholders from getting the certification is the legality issue, involving land titles.
To tackle this, the RSPO takes a jurisdictional approach and certification, in engaging with the local governments across Malaysia.
“We are working with the government and stakeholders, to see how we can bring this certification scale to the jurisdiction level,” said Ashwin.
RSPO certified palm oil has specific criteria which can help reduce any negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities.
Meanwhile, the MSPO certification scheme is a set of national standards that addresses sustainability and traceability requirements of the oil palm industry in Malaysia.
It is also aimed at establishing and operating a credible and internationally-recognised national palm oil certification scheme to promote sustainable management of oil palm estates in the country.
The MSPO certification will be mandatory beginning next year and as at Sept 30, the Malaysian government had secured 55 per cent or 3.19 million hectares from the total 5.85 million hectares of land under oil palm cultivation nationwide.
As for the RSPO, in its 2019 Impact Report released recently, it said the RSPO certified independent smallholders increased by 52 per cent while the total number of smallholders jumped 165 per cent between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019.