Sunday, September 22

Sabah to get CPO certified as sustainable palm oil

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KOTA KINABALU: The State Government of Sabah has decided to launch a 10-year jurisdictional program to have all crude palm oil (CPO) produced from Sabah to be certified as sustainable palm oil or CSPO.

This was decided at a cabinet meeting on October 21, this year, after taking account of all factors and oil palm being a crucial crop for Sabah’s wellbeing, Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Mannan disclosed in a statement yesterday.

He said a committee would be established to implement the programme, to be headed by the Secretary of Natural Resources, with the Forestry Department providing interim secretarial support.

“RSPO and Forever Sabah, an NGO, will provide technical advice, and relevant parties including NGOs, government departments, scientific organisations, etc, shall be co-opted into the committee.

“It is anticipated that funding to implement the program on a step by step strategy, will come from many sources, including the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), corporate donors, the oil palm sector itself, etc. The Forestry Department shall support the endeavour in kind,” said Mannan.

He added special attention shall be given to smallholders to get “group certification” at no cost to them. At present, the productivity of smallholders is low and many in rural areas, hardly cover their cost of production, e.g. yearly production as low as two tonnes/FFB/ha/year. With supported certification, such smallholders shall benefit from productivity gains and thus, higher incomes.

Currently, land managed by the Forestry Department for oil palm cultivation, covers about 200,000 hectares of gross area. The licensees in these areas have been given deadlines to get RSPO certification and this is part of the terms and condition of the usage. Some licensees are already in the final stage of certification.

“CSPO as a brand for Sabah’s oil palm, shall elevate its position as a producer of responsible oil palm. This is what will keep us competitive,” he said.

According to the director, the current forest fires, allegedly caused by bad oil palm development practices, must never be associated with Sabah’s oil palm.

The Forestry Department is of the opinion that the State Government’s support, an exemplary decision of good and responsible governance, shall spur interest to buy Sabah’s palm oil as a premium product and at the same time, act as a catalyst for downstream activities in the State, he said.

Sabah currently exports 12 per cent of the world’s CPO and is the third largest producer, after Indonesia and Peninsular Malaysia. At present, some 30 per cent of Sabah’s production comes from sustainable sources, under the gold standard of the RSPO, an international grouping of buyers, producers, civil society, scientific organisations and NGOs, amongst others. Its secretariat is based in Kuala Lumpur.

Mannan said in time to come, with increasing expansion of oil palm plantations in other countries with suitable land to spare, Sabah’s share of the world market will shrink. Further to that, on costs alone, Sabah might not be able to compete and it is unlikely that the state will be in a position to expand its land area for planting further, due to the scarcity of lands and the marginal quality of whatever land is still available. Hence, to remain competitive with its CPO and its oil palm products saleable economically, he said Sabah has to upgrade its position by competing on the basis of governance and not size, which it is unable to do.