This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on November 14, 2017
KUALA LUMPUR: A senior Sabah official’s push for a statewide implementation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification may be backed by only a small group of people, says Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer Kalyana Sundram.
“It is one man’s wish list and there is a group of people who sell the idea,” said Kalyana. “It is still being deliberated and not adopted by the state. It is a wish list [of the people] who think this what is needed to improve the palm oil industry.”
“As far as we know, the state of Sabah has not legislated [the RSPO], in favour of the jurisdictional CSPO (certified sustainable palm oil),” he told The Edge Financial Daily on the sidelines of a forum organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council.
Recently, Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan said Sabah aims to be fully RSPO-certified by 2025, and would not bow down to federal pressure to adopt the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification. He said the state had the right to choose what it thinks is best in matters concerning its land, forests and water, as stipulated under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Kalyana said the MPOC was “all eyes and ears” on the proposal, though it was keen on understanding what the jurisdictional CSPO meant. “Please ask them to explain [the matter] and if there is a state-adoption of that concept,” he said.
“We are not saying it cannot be done or we are against it. No, we have an open approach to the whole issue. This is not finalised … it is his opinion. We respect all opinions,” he added.
In a related matter, Kalyana said the European Union (EU) resolution on palm oil indicates that none of the certification standards — the RSPO, MSPO and Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil — are “complete in their own sense”.
The resolution passed by the European Parliament on April 4 requires palm oil exporters to comply with a single certified sustainable palm oil scheme to be implemented from 2020.
Kalyana said while the perception among many in the industry is that the EU would adopt the RSPO, it has to be noted that the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification is the leading certification system in Europe.
“Ultimately, the [agreed] standard has to be accepted in the marketplace in importing countries. So, there is more work to be done. That is the way we look at it,” he said.
Kalyana added that right now, it is not a question of which standard is better or worse, but when comparing the standards, there is a variation of 5% to 10%.
“There are differences in principles and criteria. Now, we need to see how to narrow the differences. Then, we have to present the certification to the legislators in Europe. So, it is work in progress,” he said.