Three leading palm oil companies have launched a sustainability initiative to help independent smallholders in Indonesia, the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) announced on 4 August.

Downstream producer Kao Corporation, exporter and trader Apical Group and upstream producer Asian Agri had joined forces to launch the programme aimed at helping smallholders improve yields, acquire international certification and improve profitability by selling certified palm oil, the MPOC said.

Known as the ‘SMallholder Inclusion for better Livelihood & Empowerment’ programme – or SMILE – MPOC said the aim of the 11-year programme was to continue to build a more sustainable palm oil value chain by working with independent smallholders, who contributed more than 28% to Indonesia's palm oil market.

The collaboration recognised that as private business owners, independent smallholders were seeking to increase their yield and productivity but might lack the necessary knowledge or technical expertise to do so, MPOC said.

Global palm oil production totalled 75M tonnes/year and was expected to increase to 111.3M tonnes by 2025, according to the report.

The three companies were implementing activities in accordance with the framework provided by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and working to ensure traceability as far as the plantation, MPOC said.

SMILE would involve a team of experts working with 5,000 independent smallholders that manage approximately 18,000ha of plantations in the provinces of North Sumatra, Riau and Jambi, according to the report.

Farmers would be given guidance on how to improve yields and sustainably manage their farms, offered support for achieving RSPO certification and given training on how to implement robust safety measures across their holdings, MPOC said.