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Having own palm oil certification hailed

Published on: Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kota Kinabalu: State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun welcomed the Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme which the Government plans to introduce as an alternative to the Geneva-based Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification.

He said this would probably encourage more people to participate in the effort to enhance the oil palm industry's overall productivity in a more environmentally-sustainable manner.

"I think it (MSPO) will encourage more people to participate (in the green scheme). People claimed that the problem with RSPO is that it is too expensive to comply with," he said.

"So I assume that having a domestic version of the RSPO would make it cheaper. It would be more attractive for all those players concerned in the industry to join in the bandwagon," he said, after opening the National Seminar on The Impact Study Of Palm Oil Mills, Oil Palm Plantations And Other Pollutants Sources On The Quality Of Selected Rivers In Sabah held at the Magellan Sutera here.

"But I expect the results or outcomes from the creation of this MSPO would be the same (as in the RSPO)," he said.

Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok had early last month said Malaysia would have to come up with a national certification scheme. The national certification scheme is said to be an opportunity for Malaysia to tell the world that its oil palms are grown in a sustainable manner and do not involve the clearing of virgin forest.

It was claimed that there were many loopholes in the RSPO voluntary certification which made it difficult for the palm oil consuming nations in the West to embrace the Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), while the RSPO had in a recent report maintained that the CSPO had been on a steady rise since 2008.

The average uptake of its CSPO was 26 per cent in 2009 and 56 per cent in 2010. In 2010, seven per cent of global palm oil production or 3.7 million tonnes consisted of CSPO.

Masidi also commended the organiser of the national seminar which he described as timely in view of the growing environmental concerns due to the rapid socio-economic development, in this case the oil palm industry and its relation to the issue of water quality in Sabah.

"Sad to say river pollution due to malpractice by the oil palm industry players, deliberate or not, have been long outstanding issues. Being a developing state, the State Government cannot just stop the industry as this industry contributes significantly to the welfare of the State," he said.

The oil palm sector is the fastest growing agro-industry and has been contributing significantly to Sabah's economy. In terms of area coverage, Sabah remains the largest oil palm planted State with approximately 1.36 million hectares representing about 30 per cent of the country's total planted area to date.

Sabah also has the most oil palm mills in the country with 120 located throughout the State. The industry is also considered important to Sabah from the perspective of poverty eradication and providing employment opportunities to about 300,000 smallholders so far, making the oil palm sector one of the major socio-economic drivers and an important pillar for Sabah and the nation's economy.

Masidi said as palm oil will continue to be produced to meet global demands, the Government is actively looking at ways and means to enhance the industry's overall productivity through a more environmentally-sustainable manner.

One of the strategies used was to promote participation in the business to a business initiative under the RSPO which is aimed at producing oil palm on a sustainable basis, he said, adding that the country presently has more than 1.2million tonnes which have been certified under the RSPO.

He said to further encourage sustainable practices among the smallholders, the Government has allocated some RM50million towards assisting them in the certification of palm oil.

In the longer term, this initiative will contribute towards strengthening oil palm's role in meeting both food and non-food purposes.

The oil palm industry represents the backbone of Malaysia's commodities market with an export revenue of RM49.6billion last year.

Of this Sabah earned RM13.56billion, hence emerging as a leading agricultural force and an important contributor to the state's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).