PETALING JAYA: Wilmar International Ltd, which has been heavily criticised for deciding not to buy crude palm oil (CPO) from some Sarawak planters by end-2015, is expected to meet up with the affected parties and state government agencies early next week to shed light on the group’s new CPO sourcing policy.
“Wilmar will be sending a group comprising consultants as well as plantation and forestry experts to Sibu and Miri possibly from Feb 25 onwards,” Wilmar general manager, group sustainability Simon Siburat said.
Wilmar is the largest CPO buyer in Sarawak, purchasing almost 50% of the state’s total CPO production or about 3.3 million tonnes annually for its palm oil refinery in Bintulu.
Siburat, who will be heading the Wilmar team to Sarawak, told StarBiz yesterday that Wilmar had been getting a lot of bad press lately and the company would need to quickly address the entire issue.
“Therefore, we have decided to meet up with several big Sarawak oil palm plantation companies, especially those who are heavily involved in cultivating oil palm in high carbon stock forests, high conservation areas and peat land.
“We have also set up meetings with the officials from Felda and Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra), which are most active in oil palm plantation operations via the smallholders scheme.”
On Dec 5, Wilmar has declared “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” policy, which market analysts say could affect some Sarawak CPO suppliers if they failed to comply with the policy by end-2015.
Some analysts also said Wilmar’s new policy could reshape the business landscape in Sarawak as 42% or 504,000ha of Sarawak’s total 1.2 millon ha of oil palm plantations were on peat soil.
Siburat, meanwhile, pointed out that it was not true that Wilmar would stop buying palm oil from Sarawak, contrary to some reports.
He said Wilmar operated along the entire supply and value chain and it was in the group’s interest to see the palm oil industry continue to grow, flourish and succeed.
“Our business is fully integrated and we are dependent on supply from many independent suppliers. It is never our intention to exclude suppliers or to put a stop to expansion and growth of the industry, especially in Sarawak, where we have been operating for many years.”
According to Siburat, Wilmar will be developing a programme with various stakeholders to help local smallholders and farmers develop their native customary land responsibly, irrespective of whether “it is peatland or not, as we understand that indigenous communities depend on this land for their livelihood.”
Some of the big plantation companies in Sarawak which are concentrated in Sibu and Miri include Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, WTK Holdings Bhd, Sarawak Oil Palm Bhd and Rimbunan Sawit Bhd.