RSPO certifies first smallholders in the world
Thailand is the first country in the world to have independent smallholders RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Certified. Comprising a community of 412 smallholders over 2,767.33 hectares of planted land, these independent smallholders will now have an opportunity to trade approximately 52,000 mt of certified sustainable Fresh Fruit Bunches (FFB), generating an estimated 10,000 mt of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). Currently, the total annual production capacity of RSPO certified sustainable FFB is approximately 36 million metric tonnes globally.
The international multi-stakeholder organisation and certification scheme for sustainable palm oil, RSPO, has been collaborating closely with major producing countries around the world to build capacity amongst independent smallholders in the past few years. This was a pressing priority after the successful certification of schemed smallholders in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Darrel Webber, Secretary General of RSPO commented that: “As the third largest producer of crude palm oil (CPO) in the world, over 70 per cent of oil palm in Thailand is produced by independent smallholders. The primary challenges for smallholders to become certified include lack of awareness on benefits of being certified; funding support and lack of expertise or capacity building. To this end, the RSPO is committed to mobilising strategic initiatives aimed at addressing these primary issues.
“Smallholders also need to be made aware of the advantages of being certified which includes access to international demand markets for sustainable palm oil; longer term efficiencies in terms of yield and productivity as well as effective cost management. A recent report by WWF in collaboration with CDC (a UK government-owned development finance institution) and FMO (the Netherlands Development Finance Company) clearly attests that the benefits of embracing sustainability outweigh the costs incurred which reinforces that responsible practices are not only good for the environment but is also commercially advantageous,” Webber added. The report can be viewed here www.rspo.org/en/business_cases
Daniel May, Project Manager at GIZ, an organisation funded by the German government to accelerate sustainable palm oil production amongst smallholders in Thailand, commented, “The German government, in particular German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) will continue to demonstrate support in enabling smallholders around the world towards sustainability according to internationally set standards. The certification of independent smallholders was contributed by GIZ in the form of training services on best management practices such as seed selection, fertiliser application; proper health, safety and environment practices. Thailand is certainly raising the bar in its commitment to sustainable palm oil”
The National Interpretation for Thailand for Smallholders developed by the Thai National Interpretation Working Group (Thai NI WG) has been approved by the RSPO. The Thai NI WG has worked since 2010 to develop the document involving 21 representatives from academics, to grower/ farmer representatives, refineries and biodiesel plants, palm oil crushing mills, NGOSs, government and associations. This now enables independent smallholders in Thailand to be audited and certified against the standard.
At present, 14 per cent of the world's palm oil production is RSPO certified
The current estimated annual production capacity of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil is 7.2 million metric tonnes, approximately 14 per cent of global palm oil production. Spread over 1.6 million hectares of certified area - 45.5 per cent of the world's current RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil production capacity comes from Indonesia; followed by 44.7 per cent from Malaysia; with the remaining 9.8 per cent from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Brazil, Colombia and Ivory Coast.
In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with a satellite office in Jakarta.
RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
Such multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Executive Board and project level Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group to bring group-specific agendas to the roundtable, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders and business competitors to work together towards a common objective and making decisions by consensus.