Some 800 delegates from 30 countries began a three-day meeting here on Tuesday to discuss the latest developments in the campaign for socially, economically and environmentally sustainable palm oil.
The discussions within the 12th annual conference of The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are taking place against the backdrop of some positive developments as industries in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Belgium have all pledged to buy 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015.
This pledge will coincide with Europe leading up to the entry into force of the new food labelling regulation at the end of this year, when palm and other vegetable oils will appear on product packs, RSPO Secretary General Darrel Webber noted.
“We hope this will raise consumer awareness of the issues related to palm oil production and increase pressure on the industry to certify. The momentum is on and the precedent in Europe is reflecting in developments in other non-European markets,” added Webber.
The Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO, a multistakeholder forum grouping oil palm growers, processors, importers, industrial users, green NGOs and consumer organizations from around the world, reported that the annual production capacity of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil is now estimated at 11.1 million metric tonnes, approximately 18 per cent of global crude palm oil output.
Spread over 2.53 million hectares of certified production area, about 50 per cent of the world’s current RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil production capacity came from Indonesia, followed by 41 per cent from Malaysia and the remainder from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Ivory Coast, Thailand, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil, Cambodia and Colombia.
However, Indonesia has challenged the RSPO certification scheme by introducing its own certification program called Indonesia Sustainable Palm oil (ISPO) in 2011, and Malaysia will follow next year with its own certification mechanism called Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO).
Both countries supply more than 85 per cent of the global palm oil output.
But while the RSPO certification, though voluntary in nature, is recognized by the international market as a green label, the Indonesian and Malaysian certification schemes, though legally compulsory, are not accepted by the international market as a green trademark.
The principles of sustainable management promoted and assessed under the schemes of RSPO, ISPO (Indonesia) and MSPO (Malaysia) for their respective certification are by and large similar: covering such elements as transparency, legal and regulatory compliance, best production practices, environmental responsibility and commitments to local community development, human rights, land rights etc.
Webber said efforts are now underway to develop synergy between the certification programs because their primary goal is the same: to develop palm oil as a major source of vegetable oil in socially, economically and environmentally sustainabe practices.
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