The Government is expected to put in place the long-awaited Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) standard before the end of the year, following in the footsteps of Indonesia, which launched its national palm oil standard in 2011.
Prior to the MSPO launch, industry sources said that the international branding for local palm oil on whether to adopt the “sustainable” or “responsible” approach would be announced within the next two weeks.
As agreed among domestic industry players, the application of the MSPO standard would be on a voluntary basis. This is similar to the voluntary-basis Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) initiative, the pioneer in certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) for the world market.
The MSPO standard, however, would differ from the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standard that has been made mandatory for all oil palm plantation companies including Malaysians operating in the republic with effect from mid-2014, sources told StarBiz yesterday.
“In essence, Malaysia is ready to launch the MSPO within this year,” said an industry player who attended the palm oil branding meeting between top officials from the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, the Palm Oil Refiners Association of Malaysia and the Malaysian Biodiesel Association on Tuesday.
So far, three MSPO documents have already been issued for public comment, namely, “MSPO Part 2: General principles for independent smallholders”, “MSPO Part 3: General principles for oil palm plantations and organised smallholders” and “MSPO Part 4: General principles for palm oil mills”.
However, the document on “MSPO Part 1: Guidelines for MSPO” has yet to be gazetted. “I believe Sirim Bhd will likely publish MSPO Part 1 together with MSPO Part 2 to 4 as one package later on,” revealed the source.
Once the public comment period is over, Sirim would look into all comments and make the necessary changes, if any, he said, adding that it would then be tabled at the Standards Committee for approval.
“Normally, from the end of the public comment period till the time it is gazetted, it would take about three to six months.
“So, all the MSPO Part 1 to 4 documents would be published latest before year-end,” the source explained.
With the MSPO coming on board, there would be three dedicated CSPO initiatives globally by end-2013 two national-based ISPO and MSPO, and one international multi-stakeholder-based RSPO.
Palm oil industry expert M R Chandran said: “The sustainability standards are increasingly becoming a norm being demanded, especially by major palm oil consuming nations.”
For Malaysia, the MSPO standard could be more easily implemented nationwide compared with Indonesia's challenging environment in terms of its sprawling and highly segregated plantations on the multitude of islands in the republic.
Furthermore, many of the big plantations in Malaysia are members of the RSPO. Many of their mills are RSPO-certified, while those uncertified ones are in the process of getting certified.
“MSPO would probably not stray far from the Malaysian interpretation of the RSPO framework, which is slightly different from the generic RSPO principles and criteria.
“Therefore, RSPO-certified Malaysian plantations automatically can be certified under the MSPO, and Malaysia can have at least two million tonnes of MSPO-certified palm oil ready immediately,” said a Johor-based planter.
The only major difference, perhaps, could be in the cost of getting the MSPO certification, which would be significantly lower than the RSPO.
For RSPO certification, a palm oil producer would have to fork out about RM100 for the production of one tonne of CSPO.
Some opine that local plantations which have been RSPO-certified could be getting a fast track to MSPO certification, while independent planters with smaller estate holdings would be given incentives to cover the cost of their MSPO certification.
However, in Indonesia, planters with the RSPO certification would still need to undergo the rigourous process of getting the ISPO certification.