Tuesday, June 24 2003 - KUMPULAN Guthrie Bhd has initiated measures tomake its palm oil-based byproducts acceptable in European hypermarkets.
At present, the company is tweaking its mill in Labu, Negri Sembilan, tomanufacture products that meet the European Retail Parties GoodAgricultural Practices (Eurepgap) certificate standards.
Kumpulan Guthrie’s controller for group quality assurance Syed MahdharSyed Hussain said the mill’s production is expected to start by next year.
We have been given the mandate by the group and once we obtain thecertificate, Guthrie’s palm oil in many food products can be sold atCarrefour, Walmart and Tesco in Europe, he told visiting analysts andreporters at Guthrie’s Bukit Talang palm oil estate and mill in Selangorlast Friday.
Located about 18km from Kuala Selangor town, Selangor, and 80km from KualaLumpur, Bukit Talang Estate and Mill is one of the oldest owned by Guthrieand among the first in the country to be opened by the British to growrubber in the 1920s.
In 1954, oil palm was planted at the estate followed by the setting up ofthe mill. The estate was acquired by Malaysia’s oldest planter in 1981during the diversified group’s famous dawn raid on the London StockExchange led by its group chief executive, Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.
Qualifying for the 1977 standard is important because shopping centres inEurope require that all food products which contain palm oil such asmargarine, sweetened condensed milk and cooking oil must first meet thehealth standard before it can reach the consumers, said Syed Mahdhar.
We will not only be the first in Malaysia to meet the standard but also inAsia. Subsequently, we may apply the agricultural and milling practices atthe Labu estate as the blueprint for all of Guthrie’s 14 mills and 45estates nationwide as part of Guthrie’s aim to be aninternationally-recognised plantation giant and one of the world’s leadingpalm oil companies.
However, he added, to qualify for Eurepgap, all plantation companies mustmeet three criteria ensuring minimal damage to the environment,sustaining crop productivity and fulfilling social obligations to workersand the surrounding community.
That would not be a problem because Guthrie ensures that its palm oiloperations cause little or no damage at all to the environment. We banopen burning and we also use fertilisers and pesticides allowed by theGovernment.
Guthrie also uses natural and organic fertilisers such as empty fruitbunches for our oil palm.
As for social development, he said, the welfare of its almost 56,000workers is second to none at Guthrie. Estate workers are well taken careof because they are covered and protected by plantation workers’organisations such as the National Union of Plantation Workers and theMalaysian Agricultural Producers Association.
Guthrie is also well-known for taking the initiative to build in-houseschools, community halls and houses for its estate managers and workers.
On top of that, Syed Mahdhar said, the group is working towards anothercertification, the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point for food safety,and a halal acknowledgement which is awarded by the Health Ministry forone of its mills by December 2004 and for the group by December 2006.
The criteria for the local certification are somewhat similar to those forEurepgap in that they ensure that no damage is done to the environment,that there is no wastage during the production process and that socialobligations are carried out.