RSPO optimistic over certification

SANDAKAN: The Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a leading not-for-profit body that provides certification for sustainable palm oil, is optimistic that the entire 150 growers worldwide under its scheme will be able to obtain RSPO certification in five years, more than double of the 72 growers certified now.

In 2016, Malaysia made up 30.91% of the globally-produced certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), after Indonesia at 57.65%. Indonesia and Malaysia produce more than 85% of the world’s palm oil.

Certified growers are producers of palm oil whose operations have been certified against the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C).

In Malaysia, certified growers include Boustead Plantations Bhd, IOI Corp Bhd, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd.

RSPO technical director Salahudin Yaacob said the remaining 78 growers will have to get their mills and estates certified in the next five years.

Moreover, RSPO’s revised system also requires all RSPO growers to get all their plantations certified within five years, which is applicable from June 2018.

“Companies under RSPO subscribe to our conduct and they know they have to do it. If not, their membership will be suspended,” he told SunBiz during a familiarisation tour here early this month.

According to RSPO data, there are 304 certified palm oil mills globally. As of Oct 10, 2017, there are 11.61 million tonnes of RSPO-Certified Sustainable Palm Oil globally from 3.2 million hectares of certified areas, out of which 2.47 million hectares are productive areas. In Malaysia, certified growers are producing 3.67 million tonnes CSPO from a certified area of 965,817ha in the country.

Salahudin said RSPO aims to increase CSPO by two million tonnes annually worldwide but noted that this is a big task.

“Beginning 2016, we were having some challenges due to the withdrawals of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV). When we lost the FGV certificate, we lost 1.75 million tonnes (of CSPO). So now we’re in the recovering phase and we’re hoping they (FGV) can bring all their units to certification within five years. We have big faith in FGV. We’re also hoping for growth in Indonesia and Africa.

“For us, it’s not the volume but the areas that we manage to bring into our scheme,” Salahudin told SunBiz.

The Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and its 33.7%-associate FGV had voluntarily withdrawn the RSPO P&C certificates of 58 mills located throughout Malaysia effective May 3, 2016 to address on-the-ground sustainability issues.

Salahudin said the biggest challenge for RSPO is getting credible auditors and assessors due to the lack of proper education in this area in Malaysia.

“We’ve good standards, we’ve good system, but what we need is credible auditors and assessors. We do have assessors but they’re still not up to the mark. The same goes with auditing. When we send a certification body to audit, this also requires good auditors.”

He said most of the auditors or assessors learn on the fly and by experience, which takes time.

Most have experience dealing with ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation), a management system; whereas RSPO is a compliance system.

“Certification is here to stay. It will not go away, so efforts must be made to make sure that our system can produce good graduates who can become good auditors.

“The universities need to do something to churn out good graduates,” said Salahudin, adding that it is now working with Universiti Putra Malaysia to come up with modules for sustainable auditing."

RSPO has 25 certification bodies under its scheme, which is officially recognized by Accreditation Services International GmbH.