MSPO certification extremely crucial for consumers, says French Ambassador

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KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 11): The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification is important to regain consumers' trust, including those in the EU, regarding the environmentally-friendly qualities and sustainability of palm oil and its production chain.

French Ambassador to Malaysia Frederic Laplanche said currently, consumers in the whole of the EU have a negative view of palm oil as it is seen as a contributing factor to deforestation and climate change.

"The MSPO certification is extremely important for regulatory reasons in some areas, but also for the consumers.

"The consumers want to buy products they're comfortable with, thinking I am (the consumers) not contributing to climate change, (and) deforestation. So, certification of sustainability is very crucial," he told Bernama International News Service, recently.

Asked if he was satisfied with Malaysia's effort on sustainability, Laplanche replied in the affirmative and added that France also strongly support the Malaysian government's drive to extend the sustainability certification to all palm oil production, limit the palm oil plantation expansion, as well as protecting the percentage of the territory to be kept under forest cover.

"These are a very positive element of the Malaysian government’s policy which we strongly support," he said.

The MSPO certification, introduced in 2015 to certify palm oil that is sustainably and responsibly grown and produced in Malaysia, has been made mandatory by the end of 2019.

Oil palm estates of more than 40.47 hectares and palm oil mills that fail to obtain the certification or begin the process of the certification on Jan 1, 2020, will be fined and penalised. Those who failed to comply can be penalised, or have their licences suspended, cancelled or unrenewed.

Up to Aug 31, 2019, 2.96 million hectares or 50.6% of the total 5.85 million hectares of oil palm plantations, including smallholders, have been certified.

Meanwhile, 288 palm oil mills or 64.29% of the total 448 mills have been certified.

The certification covers seven aspects of palm oil production from the field to the final product, namely management commitment and responsibility; transparency; compliance and legal requirements; social responsibility, health, safety and employment conditions; environment, natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem; best practices; and development of new plantings.

The Malaysian government has also capped the expansion of oil palm plantations at 6.5 million hectares and is committed to maintaining at least 50% of its land under forest and green cover.

Laplanche also said that the EU is not banning the palm oil and will continue to buy the commodity.

"What is taking place is that some of the subsidies in place in Europe for palm oil as biofuel will gradually disappear," he explained.

But the envoy cautioned that even without the EU's withdrawal of subsidies, diesel is also disappearing as a market as it is seen by consumers as being more polluting than other engines.

Palm oil is being used as a biofuel in diesel.

"The market for diesel is also going to diminish anyway. So, I think its important for the producers of palm oil to realise this," he said.

The EU import crude palm oil before it is transformed into a final product in a limited number of refineries in Europe.

France is one of Europe's major consumers of palm oil-related end products, which is biofuel and the food industry.