Malaysian palm oil: Proof of assurance to the global consumer

Certified sustainable palm oil gives consumers the choice of paying a slight premium to support producers committed to sustainability. Photo: Malaysian Palm Oil Council

After 100 years of commercial oil palm cultivation, Malaysia is putting in place a national sustainable palm oil certification standard that will be the premium-quality palm oil sustainably grown and produced nationwide.

The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification will be proof of assurance to global consumers and retailers that local palm oil originates from well managed planted areas and is quality assured and safe for consumption.

Being developed along the Sustainable Agriculture Practices and the three major elements of sustainability – People, Planet and Profit – the MSPO certification is the third such certification in the world for palm oil.

The first certification under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was introduced in 2004 and followed by the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification launched in 2011.

For big Malaysian planters, many have obtained both the RSPO and ISPO certifications given their broad investments in oil palm plantations in Indonesia as well as palm oil exports particularly to Europe, the United States, Australia and North America. On the local front, the Government is targeting the MSPO certification to be made mandatory to all local palm oil stakeholders by end of 2019.

The timeline for plantations that are already certified through other schemes is Dec 31, 2018 while those without certification is June 30, 2019 and smallholders by end-December 2019.

Toward this end, the operator of MSPO certification scheme – Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC) has a huge task ahead in 2017 and beyond, says chief executive officer Harnarinder Singh.

He told The Star that the council will focus towards meeting the targets of achieving mandatory certification throughout the country.

In this context, MPOCC will work alongside with plantations, independent and organised smallholdings as well as palm oil processing facilities to be certified within the timeline set by the government.

“We want to progressively build the MSPO certification into a credible standard. It will be an important platform to brand local palm oil as sustainably-produced, safe and widely accepted in the global markets,” he pointed out.

Malaysia as the second world largest producer of palm oil will need to proof of sustainability to counter the on-going anti-palm oil campaigns by Western NGOs, green activists and environmentalists, added Harnarinder.

In recent years, the markets in the developed countries, specifically the buyers in the European Union has has increasingly been demanding for certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), he added.

This trend is expected to grow into other traditional palm oil markets such as China, India and Pakistan that could be dictating similar requirements for CSPO imports in the near future.

Harnarinder who has over 30 years experience in the timber sector, specialising in timber certification explains that “Most certification schemes are almost similar.

The MSPO is essentially a reflection of a unified code of laws concerning best practices throughout the supply chain, from oil palm planting to palm oil processing.

In addition, it addresses issues such as conservation, zero burning, indigenous people’s right and workers’ right.

To recap, MSPO was initiated in 2010 by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

The MPOB is the regulator and the standard writing organisation appointed by Sirim Bhd to draft the technical standards for the local palm oil sector.

The MSPO standard was launched on a voluntary basis in 2013 and in 2014, MPOCC was established.

There were two committees established i.e

the Technical Working Committee which drafted the oil palm certification standard and the Technical Working Committee on Fats and Oils. This entails the development of certification standards, accreditation requirements and notification of certification bodies, application by potential clients for certification audits, supply chain traceability requirements, guidelines for auditing, peer reviewing of audit reports, issuance of logo usage licenses and procedures for handling of complaints. This was subsequently subjected to public comments prior being approved. Under the MSPO certification scheme, it allows the involved stakeholders for oil palm management certification and supply chain certification.

In addition, there is a need to increase the Certification Bodies (CBs) which are competent to carry out credible and consistent audits for the MSPO certification.

All CBs need to be accredited with the Department of Standards Malaysia.

Currently, 4 CBs have been accredited. Harnarinder is hopeful that there will be more than 10 CBs that were accredited to carry out the MSPO auditing and issuance of MSPO accredited certificates by end of this year.

To date, MSPO-certified areas comprising both estates and smallholders amount to 211,675ha while MSPO-certified crude palm oil (CPO) and crude palm kernel stand at 660,700 tonnes and 118,100 tonnes, respectively.

As of December 2016, 6% of the estate planted hectarage was MSPO-certified and only 0.3% of smallholder hectarage was MSPO-certified.

By 2019, Malaysia is targeting to export some five million tonnes of its MSPO-certified palm oil to the global markets.

More stories on Malaysian palm oil at

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100 glorious years of palm oil in Malaysia

Milestones in the palm oil industry

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Malaysian palm oil industry undaunted by smear campaigns

A council with clout

IOI Group’s Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng is bullish on palm oil’s propects

IOI Corporation Bhd is one of the most fully integrated plantation companies in the world

Genting Plantations Berhad moves forward with technology

Sime Darby Bhd continues to innovate, pushing the palm oil agenda to the fore

KLK growing from strength to strength

Felda – an economic powerhouse

Malaysia is ready to put in place a national sustainable palm oil certification

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