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Nur Aisha Abd. Wahab


Daily Express



No turning back on MSPO now

3 Apr 2019 (Daily Express) KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia cannot back off from 100pc certified palm oil by 2020 because that was the pledge from the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council under the previous government to the world, Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok (pic) told Daily Express in an exclusive interview.

“That’s why I have been pushing very hard on Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil, that’s why I came here and the MPOCC people such as its President Datuk M Nagarajan were here because they were the ones who came out with the 100pc certification,” she noted

“All this was announced by my predecessors – former Ministers that by the end of 2019, Malaysia will achieve 100pc certification of the whole value chain. So I came in just to repeat their statements or line only,” she said.

“This is why we cannot back off, at least, all the oil that goes to Europe from our Malaysian end here must be either MSPO or RSPO certified because that is our promise to the world,” she noted. 

“But of course in the process we find a lot of challenges,” she said. Because the economic worth of the industry is close to RM70 billion per year, she said,” the whole Cabinet is very concerned about this palm oil matter from the Prime Minister downwards.” 

Many oil palm growers were hopeful that the December deadline to meet the MSPO requirements could be deferred since there is no guarantee that the European Union would change its mind and buy Malaysian palm oil, which they alleged is sourced from unsustainable sources.

The small-time growers also complained that there were too many requirements from uniforms to proper housing and prayer houses as well as signages. They felt that the imposition was also untimely now since the price of Crude Palm Oil (CPO) was hovering at $300 per tonne or half of what it used to command in the global market.

“We are working with Indonesia on how to fight back. In order to win the battle we must tell good stories and I think that our communication strategies are not great so now we are trying to improve.”

“Like Sabah, many of the smallholder lands were meant for padi and rubber but they go and plant oil palm. So now we cannot have them certified because one of the principles is abiding by the law. They were supposed to plant padi or rubber but then they went and plant oil palm and there are a lot of such cases so these are issues that we need to step in and help out,” Kok said.

“The same goes for Sarawak, there the independent small holders are facing the same problem.” 

Besides compliance to legal requirements, the auditable standards of MSPO also set down six other sustainable principles, criteria and indicators to verify actions of the ground are genuine, which include management commitment and responsibility; transparency; environment, natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem; best practices; and development of new planting. 

Whereas RSPO is traditionally focussed on big plantations and complaints about complexity and costs incurred the inclusion of smallholders, the MSPO standards are especially significant because they contribute to 40pc of the total area under oil palm in Malaysia.

“For smallholders 40ha and below their certification cost is paid by the Government at RM135 per hectre so you can safely say we cannot back down on MSPO Certification,” she said.

“We know there are a lot of challenges but now is only the beginning of April, we shall try our very best to get 100pc certification by December ,” she added.

“I can tell you even if I cannot get 100pc, maybe I get 80pc and if I can’t get 80pc maybe I get at least 65pc – at least there is an improvement,” Kok said.

“At the moment, it’s 25pc as of the end of February, that’s why we need to push not back off,” she explained. 

“Everybody has to take it very seriously and for plantations or estates to be certified the process is normally six months.”

“So if we want to do a good story which is the whole reason behind the million-tree planting launch last Saturday at Pin Supu Forest Reserve and to cap the total size of the oil palm plantations at 6.5 million hectres, “she said.

“But actually all these allout actions are for. It’s all for our export market because we produce 19.65 metric tonnes of palm oil last year, 16.45 metric tonnes of which were meant for export. And EU is the second largest export market so unless we forget the EU market, we have to comply to their requirements and standards to erase the negative perceptions and how you expect my Ministry or Teresa Kok to combat it?” she asked. 

She said when she talked about the million trees planting project to plantation top brass at a Love My Palm Oil dinner at Hyatt Monday night, some of them laughed: “What is one million trees? 

“The Sarawak Chief Minister also once told me between 1970s and now, they have planted 371 million trees !”

“I acknowledge that one million trees is not much vis-à-vis what all these people had done, but I had to say it to counter the main accusation which is deforestation and killing of wildlife and keep repeating it,” Kok said,. 

Dis they miss her higher purpose ? 

Yes said Kok who pointed to the presence of famous Sarawak Report kingpin Clare Rewcastle Brown and said: “She flew to the project site to see the tree planting project. She wanted to see the site and said this is a good story we should use in Europe to counter their accusations.”

“She said she can help us environmentalists and those people who are very concerned about trees and orangutans and all that to come and contribute .”

“Instead of keep on criticising Malaysia and our palm oil and all that, they must also come and help us to do it,” Kok relayed what Brown told her.