Oil palm estates to get certified by 2020 or risk losing licence

By DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

LEGAL actions will be taken against non-Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO)-certified oil palm estates above 40 hectares from Jan 1, 2020 onwards.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said any violations in meeting MSPO’s terms will result in the revocation of such operational licences.

“This signifies the high level of commitment by Malaysia in ensuring the sustainability of its palm oil industry,” she said in her opening address at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) International Palm Oil Congress and Exhibition (PIPOC) 2019 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

To date, 60% of the total oil palm planted area is MSPO-certified as of October this year, with 328 palm oil mills or 72.6% of the total 448 mills in the country.

“This is indeed a commendable achievement for a developing country like Malaysia, whereby 40% of its oil palm plantations are under the management of smallholders.

“It is not an easy task considering the short time frame since the requirement was first announced in February 2017, and the fact that smallholders’ landholdings are geographically dispersed and not contiguous,” she added.

Considering smallholders’ financial constraints, the government has provided monetary support and infrastructure requirement to alleviate the cost of certification borne by them.

“Also, the issues of land parcels, transportation and even understanding the benefits of certification can be major roadblocks. Our efforts would have been easier if importing countries recognise and support our national certification scheme, which is geared towards sustainable practices, instead of constantly discriminating our palm oil.

“In fact, smallholders keep asking me why they are forced to get certified when the European Union (EU) keeps discriminating us and not supporting our efforts,” Kok said.

The palm oil industry is currently governed by over 60 national laws and regulations including the stringent licensing requirements by MPOB throughout the supply chain.

“We are confident that through MSPO, which also advocates good agricultural practices, we will eventually improve the income of smallholders. The government is also encouraging smallholders to venture into mixed farming to diversify their income, particularly during low commodity prices,” Kok said.

She also highlighted that the government will enforce regulations to ensure that by 2021, Malaysia’s palm oil meets new food safety standards under consideration by the EU.

“The palm oil industry in Malaysia has been instructed (by the government) to adhere to the EU-prescribed level of 3-MCPD of 2.5 milligramme/kg for food products by 2021.

“While acknowledging the richness and the benefits of palm oil in terms of its properties, Malaysia also emphasises on the importance of the quality of the oils produced and will be addressing the concerns with regard to food safety,” she said during a press conference at the PIPOC 2019.

The EU has imposed a limit for glycidyl esters and will soon impose a limit for 3-MCPD esters in palm oil.

The European Food Safety Authority said the two contaminants raise potential health concerns.

“Rounds of consultations with our industry players were held and we are now in the process of enforcing several regulations to ensure that the palm oil produced meets the acceptable safety level for 3-MCPD,” Kok said.

She, however, noted that despite all these benefits and measures, the palm oil industry continues to receive negative publicity, where disturbing false allegations from non-government organisations who label the industry as damaging, destructive and unsustainable.

The EU earlier this year introduced a law to phase out palm oil from renewable fuel by 2030 due to deforestation concerns.

Kok reiterated that the Cabinet led by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will deliberate a proposal to bring a suit to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). “Malaysia and Indonesia share the plan to challenge the law at the WTO, but will do so separately,” she said.