MALAYSIA is striving hard to attain the global recognition for its national certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).
This tops the agenda for Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong, who expressed optimism on meeting the targeted deadline for the mandatory Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification for all palm oil industry players by end-2019.
For Mah, the mandatory MSPO is a testimony that all the key aspects of sustainability are being put into producing Malaysia’s number one golden crop.
The Government is serious about making the MSPO certification a reputable CSPO brand for the world markets, said Mah in an interview with StarBiz.
The MSPO certification, which is established according to the law and domestic regulations, also have good sustainable practices, which of late were strongly dictated by the consuming markets in the West.
By making the MSPO certification mandatory, he said: “This itself will reinforce Malaysia’s full commitment in producing and exporting CSPO for the global market.
“Malaysia will also double its efforts to promote the MSPO certification aggressively overseas to ensure that it will be well accepted in the international market.”
To date, the world’s first CSPO certification – The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – is on a “voluntary” basis whereby most big Malaysian oil palm plantation companies are among its members.
However, in the case of Malaysia, Mah pointed out that: “We have pledged to make the MSPO mandatory for all – this is not only for the big local plantation groups but particularly for over 650,000 palm oil smallholders nationwide.”
To date, it is estimated that 4% of 244,622 ha of oil palm plantations, including 7,113 ha owned by smallholders and 22 palm oil mills in Malaysia, are MSPO-certified since its introduction in early 2015.
“Given the deadline for mandatory certification by end-2019, we hope to increase the numbers (for MSPO certs) especially among smallholders,” said Mah.
Therefore, the Government is making a big commitment by allocating RM130mil as incentive to help smallholders obtain their MSPO certification for free.
The incentive is expected to account for about 40% of the total of 5.7 million ha of oil palm plantations in Malaysia.
Mah noted that his ministry is targeting about 500,000 ha of oil palm plantations to be MSPO-certified by end of this year and “the number is expected to further increase in 2018 and 2019.”
According to Mah, the high cost involved to finance the CSPO auditing exercise has been the major issue even with the RSPO certification –which is in euro that is way too expensive for local smallholders.
“Our smallholders simply cannot afford the RSPO certification but with MSPO, the Government is easing smallholders’ financial burden by providing them with the auditing fees.”
The auditing for over 600,000 smallholders would be a massive exercise and would be carried out in batches as it would involve close to two million ha of oil palm plantations, said Mah.
“The RSPO has been in Malaysia for a long time but the take-up rate for its certification is low among smallholders. Why? This is simply because the RSPO conditions are mostly tedious and difficult to make it home-based and also very expensive.
“So how do we get 650,000 smallholders to embrace certification? The answer is MSPO, which is a home-based certification.”
He also said that roadshows on MSPO had been ongoing to explain on the certification because “most smallholders are fearful about the cost, auditing and other principles and criteria to be in compliance with the MSPO.”
Mah admitted that he received a lot of criticism on the mandatory MSPO certification.
“However, I believe that this is something the oil palm industry players including smallholders must do because we have no other choice.
“As the entire world is going towards sustainability, more consumers are demanding for certifications and traceability on where the produce or products come from.
“That is why our palm oil need certification to validate that our planters do not destroy the environment or kill the orang utans when we grow oil palm.”
Mah also personally believe that a proper certification will instill discipline among planters on good agriculture practices.
Based on these good traits, Malaysian palm oil will be widely recognised as of good quality and sustainably produced when it is fully mandatory.
“My sincere wish is for our local certified sustainable palm oil to command a good premium price in the global market. In a sense that it will not be subjected to price competition but also widely recognised as the Malaysian palm oil (brand).
“That is why the focus on the mandatory MSPO is very important for me,” added Mah.