The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is facing fresh internal dissent after the body representing Malaysian palm growers threatened to quit - two years after its Indonesian counterpart left.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) is reportedly unhappy with the slow sales of sustainable oil and the mounting cost of certification. Last year, only about half the 7.1 million tonnes of palm oil certified “sustainable” by the RSPO was bought. The rest was sold as conventional oil with no premium going to growers.
This has fuelled dissent in Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm producer after Indonesia, whose palm oil association quit the RSPO in 2011 amid similar concerns.
“If the market was willing to pay for sustainable palm oil, there wouldn’t be this problem,” said Jeremy Goon, head of sustainability at Wilmar International, one of the world’s largest palm oil processors and a member of the RSPO since 2005.
“The big boys are committed [to the RSPO] but the complaint of many smaller producers is that they’ve paid to get certified and no one’s buying it. We’re certainly not bound by the MPOA but it has hundreds of smaller members - it may have to bow to the needs of the many.”
Andy Green, sustainable business manager at the certification body BM Trada, urged producers to keep faith in the scheme. “More big organisations are becoming RSPO-certified but we are likely to see a real surge in uptake at the end of 2014 when the targets for many big retailers come into play,” he added.