KUALA LUMPUR: The government will decide by next year whether to make the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification mandatory for all local planters, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Mah Siew Keong.
The move is being considered as an increasing number of groups abroad regard palm oil-related products as dirty, conjuring up images of deforestation, homeless orangutans and heart-clogging processed food.
“We have been considering since last year to make the certification mandatory for all planters, including smallholders, in order to make the industry more recognised and sustainable,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after opening the Oils and Fats International Congress 2016 yesterday, the minister said many countries had already come out with their own certification.
Expressing the hope that all Malaysian planters will be MSPO-certified by 2020, Mah conceded, however, that it would be not an easy task.
“Currently, we have about 500,000 smallholders accounting for close to 40% of the country’s oil palm hectarage. If we were to make it compulsory, all smallholders will also have to comply with it. This takes time and is very costly,” he said.
Mah said the government had opted to consider implementing the MSPO instead of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as the latter’s requirements are very difficult for smallholders to meet.
“I think [the] MSPO is more realistic and practical, and it covers nearly 80% to 90% of the RSPO requirements,” he said.
As MSPO certification covers all aspects of the supply chain in the industry, it is necessary for smallholders and plantation owners to work together to be able to qualify and get MSPO certification, he said.
In his speech, Mah noted that 11 new palm oil certification schemes are being introduced in European countries, which could hurt the plantation industry in the long term.
“We have to act fast to address the new certification schemes,” he said, stressing that the palm oil industry is a significant contributor to the Malaysian economy.
Denying claims that palm oil production leads to deforestation, Mah said: “We are concerned about our environment and we are very firm on retaining 50% of forest [reserves].”