The proposed voluntary certification for palm oil by the Government, the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO), should be taken as an initiative and opportunity for local producers to brand and position local palm oil as quality oil.
Speaking at the Palm Oil Industry Leadership Forum, Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron called upon all industry players to cooperate to standardise the quality of local palm oil and correct the negative perception via the MSPO certification.
While Malaysia currently produces two qualities of palm oil, Yusof believes that having a single high-quality palm oil with the MSPO certification will enable local players to collectively position palm oil better.
“The industry has to think further than just producing quality palm oil. We have to change the negative campaign on palm oil out there by being one brand, under the MSPO, so that there would be more acceptance, driving demand and prices up in the process.
“This has to be a holistic and long-term process, (and) we’re looking at a long timeline for the MSPO implementation that may take several years,” he said.
On whether the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) products would then be rendered unnecessary, Yusof said that the market did not demand the cessation of the RSPO palm oil.
“RSPO has its place. The Government should endorse and allow it to run in some capacity, (as) consumers are not asking to stop producing RSPO palm oil,” he said, adding: “Rather, this is about fighting the negative perception towards palm oil as a whole.”
Yusof noted, however, that despite the clamour for RSPO palm oil continuing to increase, the product itself had only received lukewarm demand in the market.
“Although there is only a low volume of RSPO oil available in the world, at 15% of the world’s palm oil, the uptake since 2008 has not exceeded 52%,” he presented at the forum.
Another speaker at the forum, James Smith, showed from a survey done on palm oil institutional customers and end-consumers in the European market that there was a “knowledge gap” among the general public despite the negative perception.
The consultant on the European market pointed out that the lack of proper information was an opportunity for Malaysia to step in and promote palm oil with the Malaysian branding, especially ahead of the European Union food labelling regulation.
“There has not been been much promotional effort in Europe, which allows non-governmental organisations to define what palm oil is (in a negative light),” he said, adding: “However, the European market is willing to listen to what Malaysia has to say about the oil.”
On the voluntary basis of the MSPO, several of the speakers agreed that a mandatory, industry-wide implementation was more effective to market Malaysian palm oil as a single brand, rather than a commodity.