EPOA calls for EU-wide mandatory due diligence on all vegetable oils to create level-field for all companies

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 (NNN-BERNAMA) — The European Palm Oil Alliance’s (EPOA) suggestion for a European Union (EU)-wide mandatory due diligence for companies using palm oil and other vegetable oils will create a level-playing field and a consistent framework for all companies, said its chair Frans Claassen.

These checks and balances should be non-discriminatory, so they should also be introduced for other commodities like soy, beef and cocoa, he said.

 “The EU must avoid shifting sustainability issues to other commodities. Let’s get a fair, wide-ranging regulatory framework in place for all production and consumption that is related to deforestation,” Claassen said at the International Palm Oil Sustainability Conference hosted by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC).

Claasen noted that sustainable deforestation-free palm oil contributed to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“At EPOA, we believe that sustainably produced palm oil is a key food ingredient that fits in a nutritionally balanced diet and helps feed the world, protect biodiversity and improve socio-economic development.

“So sustainable produced palm oil contributes to the UN’s SDGs. In Europe and worldwide, food and non-food manufacturers will continue to use palm oil, so it must be produced and consumed in a sustainable way, without deforestation,” he stressed.

He said the EPOA acknowledged the importance of national mandatory standards like Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) and Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil as well as initiatives that producing countries took to produce sustainably and stop deforestation, and he believed that the EU should do the same.

“We would like to stress that each region of the world moves at a different speed, with its own challenges and opportunities.

“In our opinion, positive impact in producing countries can only be achieved when good governance both on forest protection and agricultural production as well as support to producers (and particular towards smallholders) are in place,” he added.

Claassen has been involved in sustainable palm oil development since 2003 when he was the Dutch Agricultural Counsellor for Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. 

Meanwhile, MPOC chief executive officer Datuk Dr Kalyana Sundram said palm oil contributed to only 2.3 per cent of global deforestation; therefore as a crop, palm oil was not the biggest driver to deforestation.

Citing a study conducted in 2014, he said the largest single cause of historical forest loss could be attributed to unsustainable logging followed by the impact of fire, which in combination led to the progressive transition of large areas of forest landscape into agro forestry or shrub land.  

“Due to this challenge, palm oil is now subjected to rigorous sustainability certification systems with continuously-shifting goalposts.

“What started well for the palm oil industry (being the first crop in the world with sustainable certification scheme) is turning into a major challenge in light of continuous critics and it is heavily criticised and penalised whilst other commodities can often escape scrutiny,” he stressed.

Sundram said with the goal of enhancing palm oil sustainability, the Malaysian government had put in place several new policies including to cap total oil palm cultivated area to 6.5 million hectares and not allowing new planting of oil palm in peatland areas.

The government, he said, had also banned the conversion of forest reserves for oil palm cultivation and giving public access to oil palm plantation maps.

“Other efforts in the pipeline include revision of the MSPO’s principles and criteria to improve and incorporate traceability along the value chain and to incorporate IR 4.0 (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) to enhance productivity and sustainability,” he added.

As of August 2020, 86.5 per cent or 5.06 million hectares of the country’s oil palm cultivation area had received MSPO certification.

— NNN-BERNAMA