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Engaging oil palm smallholders in the supply chain could be key to transforming the palm oil industry
Bangkok, 4 December, 2020: Thai policymakers, business actors, and consumers have a key role to play in supporting sustainable palm oil by demanding it from their favourite brands and encouraging Thai smallholders to gain improved access to international markets through the global certification standard.
These topics were heavily discussed during a business forum “Road to Transforming the Sustainable Palm Oil Market in Thailand” held yesterday at the Hotel Nikko Bangkok and co-hosted by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, through their Sustainable and Climate-friendly Palm Oil Production Project (SCPOPP).
Speaking at the event, Dr. Matthias Bickel, GIZ Director of Agriculture and Food Cluster, said “Mobilising investments in knowledge and micro-finance capacity for oil palm smallholders and local communities to shift toward sustainable palm oil production is essential for improving local livelihoods and the global food supply while reducing the climate and environmental impact."
GIZ works with both public and private partners to promote sustainable palm oil production in Thailand, following the RSPO standards and have organised a series of ongoing training sessions to enhance smallholders’ capacity of sustainable agricultural practices to achieve RSPO certification, and gain improved access to international markets.
“Through the SCPOPP, we aim to train over 3,000 oil palm smallholders on sustainable practices, as well as reduce 9,600 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm cultivation and production costs by 20%, within 2022,” Dr. Bickel said.
Beverley Postma, RSPO’s Chief Executive Officer-Designate, said “Ensuring greater inclusion of smallholders in sustainable solutions that positively impact their livelihoods has long been a goal of the RSPO Secretariat and our members. We recognise the important role smallholders play in market transformation and we see this as a shared Responsibility that all players in the palm oil supply chain must commit to supporting.”
Oil palm smallholders account for the majority of oil palm production in Thailand, yet they lack opportunities to access microfinance programmes, skills and knowledge about sustainable farming, and certification standards which would enable them to access global markets.
Beverley added, “Last year, our membership adopted the RSPO Independent Smallholder (ISH) Standard, which aims to help more smallholders achieve certification through a stepwise mechanism, while adhering to the key sustainability requirements. Although 2020 has been a challenging year for all with the global pandemic, we are seeing positive progress towards ISH certification and we hope to see Thai smallholders attain this in the near future.”
At present, RSPO certified palm oil represents 19% (17.11 million tonnes) of the total global palm oil supply and in Thailand, RSPO certified sustainable palm oil accounts for just 2.8% of the country’s total palm oil supply.
Sanin Triyanon, Chairman of the Thai Biodiesel Producer Association and Managing Director of Patum Vegetable Oil Company Limited, said, “There is room to grow for the sustainable palm oil market in Thailand as more consumers in major consuming countries are demanding sustainable palm oil products that support communities and safeguard the environment.”
Sanin added that unlike neighbouring oil palm producing countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand’s palm oil industry does not face the same international pressure on environmental concerns. It is still vital that medium and large-scale oil palm growers work with oil palm smallholders to enhance their productivity and improve livelihoods. Raising public awareness on palm oil consumption is also essential for market competitiveness at both the domestic and international level.
“Collaboration with not only policymakers in setting direction and implementation guidelines, but also the private sector in working directly with the small-scale oil palm growers and consumers are key steps to transforming Thailand’s palm oil production to meeting the international standard,” he said.
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Owned by the German government, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provides services in the field of international cooperation for sustainable development. GIZ works on behalf of public and private sector clients both in Germany and overseas. These include the governments of other countries, European Union Institutions, the United Nations, World Bank and other donor organisations. GIZ operates in more than 120 countries. We have approximately 20,000 staff around the globe, some 70% of whom are national.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. RSPO is a not-for-profit, international, membership organisation that unites stakeholders from the different sectors of the palm oil industry including oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs, and social or developmental NGOs.
This multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Board of Governors, Steering Committees and Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders in working together to reach decisions by consensus, and achieving RSPO’s shared vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.
The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta (ID), London (UK), Zoetermeer (NL), Beijing (CN) and Bogotá (CO).