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Jakarta Post

Palm oil certification gets int'€™l support

  • Tama Salim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, October 4, 2014   /  01:21 pm

Indonesia, the world'€™s largest producer of palm oil, has launched an internationally backed nationwide program to improve the livelihoods of small-scale oil palm growers by helping them obtain national certification for sustainable practices.

The Agriculture Ministry, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), officially launched the Sustainable Palm Oil Initiative'€™s (SPOI) national platform to help low-income oil palm farmers increase their productivity and improve environmental management.

Agriculture Minister Suswono said the UNDP had donated US$15.5 million for the five-year program, which aims to get smallholders to abide by Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standards, a mandatory sustainability certificate introduced by the government in 2010.

'€œThe UNDP is supporting smallholders due to concerns about the sustainability of oil palm plantations and the desire to reduce poverty in the country. The program will steer these plantations toward obtaining ISPO certification,'€ Suswono said Friday on the sidelines of a SPOI event in South Jakarta.

According to Suswono, the SPOI program is targeting 4.4 million hectares of oil palm smallholdings, or equal to 44 percent of the country'€™s total oil palm plantation area. As many as 2.2 million farmers tend the smallholdings, most of which are in need of revitalization and better management.

He said he hoped the program would help plantations drive up productivity by at least 5 tons per hectare. Currently, small-scale growers produce 2.5 to 3 tons of crude palm oil (CPO) per hectare, lower than the private sector'€™s production potential of 6 tons per hectare.

'€œOil palm smallholders already manage more than 40 percent of plantations in Indonesia, and this number will surpass 50 percent by 2020. These farmers are key players in the value chain and yet they appear to be the most vulnerable link. By supporting smallholders to increase productivity, improve legality, access degraded land and achieve ISPO certification, we can strengthen their livelihoods without causing further deforestation,'€ UNDP Indonesia country director Beate Trankmann said in her opening remarks on Friday.

The government aims to have 800 plantations in classes 1-3 signed up for certification by the end of this year. However, only a small number of them, particularly large firms, have secured the national certification because many companies consider compliance with the multi-stakeholder Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) more important than the ISPO, arguing that the former is more trusted by their buyers, notably those in Europe, where demand for Indonesian palm oil can reach 3 million tons per year.

Indonesia has been struggling to address concerns from the international community, including buyers, over widespread deforestation caused by the rampant expansion of oil palm plantations. The ISPO was introduced to guarantee sustainable practices by oil palm growers in Indonesia.

The international community, however, has been loathe to recognize the ISPO, saying it does not do enough to ensure sustainability, especially since Indonesia has a weak system of law enforcement. The ISPO lacks 11 percent of the indicators found in the RSPO, including high conservation value, while the RSPO will need 25 percent additional indicators to fully comply with the ISPO.

The Agriculture Ministry, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), officially launched the Sustainable Palm Oil Initiative'€™s (SPOI) national platform to help low-income oil palm farmers increase their productivity and improve environmental management.

Agriculture Minister Suswono said the UNDP had donated US$15.5 million for the five-year program, which aims to get smallholders to abide by Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standards, a mandatory sustainability certificate introduced by the government in 2010.

'€œThe UNDP is supporting smallholders due to concerns about the sustainability of oil palm plantations and the desire to reduce poverty in the country. The program will steer these plantations toward obtaining ISPO certification,'€ Suswono said Friday on the sidelines of a SPOI event in South Jakarta.

According to Suswono, the SPOI program is targeting 4.4 million hectares of oil palm smallholdings, or equal to 44 percent of the country'€™s total oil palm plantation area. As many as 2.2 million farmers tend the smallholdings, most of which are in need of revitalization and better management.

He said he hoped the program would help plantations drive up productivity by at least 5 tons per hectare. Currently, small-scale growers produce 2.5 to 3 tons of crude palm oil (CPO) per hectare, lower than the private sector'€™s production potential of 6 tons per hectare.

'€œOil palm smallholders already manage more than 40 percent of plantations in Indonesia, and this number will surpass 50 percent by 2020. These farmers are key players in the value chain and yet they appear to be the most vulnerable link. By supporting smallholders to increase productivity, improve legality, access degraded land and achieve ISPO certification, we can strengthen their livelihoods without causing further deforestation,'€ UNDP Indonesia country director Beate Trankmann said in her opening remarks on Friday.

The government aims to have 800 plantations in classes 1-3 signed up for certification by the end of this year. However, only a small number of them, particularly large firms, have secured the national certification because many companies consider compliance with the multi-stakeholder Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) more important than the ISPO, arguing that the former is more trusted by their buyers, notably those in Europe, where demand for Indonesian palm oil can reach 3 million tons per year.

Indonesia has been struggling to address concerns from the international community, including buyers, over widespread deforestation caused by the rampant expansion of oil palm plantations. The ISPO was introduced to guarantee sustainable practices by oil palm growers in Indonesia.

The international community, however, has been loathe to recognize the ISPO, saying it does not do enough to ensure sustainability, especially since Indonesia has a weak system of law enforcement. The ISPO lacks 11 percent of the indicators found in the RSPO, including high conservation value, while the RSPO will need 25 percent additional indicators to fully comply with the ISPO.

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