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Malaysian palm oil industry gearing up for mandatory MSPO certification

The Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) announced in February that Malaysia’s certification scheme for sustainable palm oil will be made mandatory. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), an organization promoting the market expansion of Malaysian palm oil and its products by enhancing the image of palm oil and creating better acceptance of it, says that the palm oil industry is gearing up to have 100 percent of its plantation companies achieve MSPO certification by end 2019.

Commercial oil palm production in Malaysia celebrates its centenary in 2017 (photos courtesy Gustav Melin).

Commercial oil palm production in Malaysia celebrates its centenary in 2017 (photos courtesy Gustav Melin).

The scheme, known as the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) was first launched in 2015, based on the MSPO standards (MS2530:2013 series), and provides general principles for the production of sustainable palm oil that covers the 3Ps (People, Planet, Profit) in Malaysia. Key sustainability issues faced by the industry, such as environment and biodiversity, best practices and social responsibilities are embedded in MSPO’s seven principles.

Before this announcement, MSPO was implemented on a voluntary basis and administered through the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council (MPOCC), an organization under MPIC entrusted to promote the development, adoption, and implementation of MSPO.

Under the Ministry’s proposed timeline for obtaining MSPO certification, plantation companies that are already Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified must obtain MSPO certification by December 31, 2018, while companies without RSPO certification will be given more time to obtain the MSPO certification, which is by June 30, 2019.

19 percent MSPO-certified

As of January 2017, out of Malaysia’s total planted area of 5.74 million hectares, 221 575 hectares of its total planted areas has been MSPO certified.

Total oil palm certified area in Malaysia. The total planted area is 5.74 million hectares (ha), out of which 1.15 million hectares are RSPO and MSPO certified according to official figures from each organization respectively (graphic courtesy MPOC).

Total oil palm certified area in Malaysia. The total planted area is 5.74 million hectares (ha), out of which 1.15 million hectares are RSPO and MSPO certified according to official figures from each organization respectively (graphic courtesy MPOC).

Acknowledging the technical and financial constraints faced by independent and organized smallholders to obtain certification, this group will be given the longest grace period, which is up to December 31, 2019. The Ministry also said in February that financial assistance will be given to smallholders to achieve the MSPO certification.

With these firm targets in place, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) says the palm oil industry is gearing up to have 100 percent of its plantation companies achieve MSPO certification by end 2019. This could also pave the way for better market access for Malaysian palm-based products, as well as a credible and traceable platform for plantation companies to demonstrate their sustainability efforts and good agricultural practices.

MSPO is one of the certification schemes for sustainable palm oil that is currently available in Malaysia. Other major certification schemes include RSPO and International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), amongst others.

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