MSPO certification essential to ensure long-term future of palm oil

Malaysia exported 3.7 million tonnes of palm oil produce to Europe in 2017. This represented 12% of the global palm oil export in that year.

However, in 2017, the EU Parliament decided to restrict and ban palm oil biofuel by 2030 in the Delegated Regulation Supplementing Directive 2018/2001 of the European Union Renewable Energy Directive II (or more commonly known as “Delegated Act”). The reason for this is due to the claims of excessive deforestation.

As a result of this action by the EU Parliament, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), decided to seek justice for countries with palm oil plantations through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

CPOPC is an inter-governmental organisation for palm oil-producing countries that was established in 2015. Among members of CPOPC are Malaysia and Indonesia.

The council aims to promote, develop and strengthen cooperation in oil palm cultivation and industry among member countries.

In addition to that, CPOPC also focuses on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). By 2030, CPOPC will come up with the “Master plan for the strategic implementation of SDGs in the palm oil sector”.

The EU Parliament had accused Malaysia and Indonesia of destroying the forests and neglecting the environment when opening palm oil plantations. To counter this grave allegation, the Malaysian government had prepared a number of plans to create informed awareness among the anti-palm oil community.

This includes:

  • Working together with state governments to replant trees and also to limit the hectarage of planting oil palm to only 6.5 million hectares.
  • Recommendation of the preparation of official maps for oil palm areas across the country for public access.
  • Wildlife conservation.

Why do we need MSPO?

Apart from the above, the Malaysian government also introduced Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Certification (MSPO) as an alternative to the global Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil certification (RSPO).

The reason the government introduced MSPO is to carry on the mission to establish and operate a credible and internationally-recognised national palm oil certification scheme to promote sustainable management of oil palm estates in Malaysia.

MSPO is based on seven principles, which are management commitment and responsibility; transparency, compliance to legal requirements; social responsibility; health, safety and employment conditions; environment, natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem; best practices; and development of new planting.

With MSPO certification, smallholders can enjoy many benefits. It provides development of certification standards, accreditation requirements and notification of certification bodies, application by potential clients for certification audits, supply chain traceability requirements and more.

The primary industries ministry targets that all palm oil planters are to be certified by the end of this year. However, the current achievement looks far from the target, given that it was recently reported that only 42% of the local palm oil planters have successfully been MSPO-certified.

In order to achieve the target of 100% MSPO certified palm oil planters, the government should create more awareness for smallholders to register and get MSPO certification. They can collaborate with village heads and district officers to disseminate information about MSPO certification in their area.

Other than that, MPs and assemblymen also need to play their roles to help the ministry to spread awareness about this, particularly in areas with heavy oil palm activity.

At the global level, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok has announced that the MSPO certification is gaining attention from foreign bodies.

For example, the Japanese Olympic Council and the China Greenfood Development Centre already recognise MSPO. This acknowledgement from international bodies has indirectly helped Malaysia to market MSPO-certified palm oil.

MSPO is a good initiative by the government to ensure that the increased productivity of our palm oil plantations does not compromise the environment sustainability in the long run.

MSPO is also beneficial for small planters as it provides guidance on how to achieve and comply with food safety, quality, and some elements on social and environmental requirements.

Ajda Nuha Ahmad Daniel is a researcher for the Institute for Research & Development of Policy (IRDP).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.