Malaysian palm oil industry aims for 70% certification by February 2020

The Malaysian palm oil industry is aiming to achieve 70% certification by February 2020, under the country’s own sustainability scheme, Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok told the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) at the International Palm Oil Congress and Exhibition (PIPOC 2019) on 19 November.

Kok said Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification had reached 60% or 3.5M ha of the total oil palm planted area as of October 2019, with 313 palm oil mills or 69.9% of the total 448 mills in Malaysia already certified.

“We will strive to achieve 70% by February next year.”

Kok said the certification level was a commendable achievement considering 40% of the country’s oil palm plantations was under smallholder management.

“To show our seriousness in ensuring that our industry players are certified, the MPOB has announced that legal action will be taken or licenses will be cancelled for oil palm growers with a plantation acreage of 100 acres and above, and oil palm mills that are not MSPO-certified, commencing 1 January 2020,” she said.

“Any violations in meeting the terms of the MSPO will result in the revocation of operational licenses.”

The government had also agreed earlier this year to cap the total palm oil cultivated area to 6.5M hectares, to stop the new planting of oil palm in new peatland areas; strengthen regulations with regard to existing oil palm cultivation on peat; and to ban the conversion of forest reserved areas for oil palm cultivation.

Kok said that in 2018, the palm oil industry contributed 4.5% to Malaysia’s GDP and RM67.5bn (US$16bn) in export earnings, with exports totalling 16.49M tonnes and the planted area totalling 5.85M ha.

To address food safety concerns, the industry had also been instructed to adhere to EU prescribed levels for 3-MCPDE process contaminants of 2.5ppm for food products by 2021.

“We are now in the process of enforcing several regulations to ensure that palm oil meets the acceptable safety level for 3-MCPDE.”

Malaysia Prime Minister Yab Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad officially launched PIPOC 2019.

He told the event that Malaysia and other palm oil-producing nations were stepping up efforts to counter false allegations concerning palm oil.

“Despite our best efforts, if some importing countries choose to impose discriminatory trade barriers, we must not hesitate to take counter measures.

“If there is any evidence that discriminatory trade practices are in violation of any international laws, Malaysia and other producing countries, under the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC), must seek intervention from the World Trade Organization (WTO).”

Kok told a press conference later that a paper would be presented to the cabinet next month for a decision on whether to file a WTO complaint against the EU’s Delegated Regulation Act, which classifies palm oil as a high-risk indirect land use change (ILUC) biofuel feedstock, the use of which will be capped at 2019 levels until 2023, and phased out to zero by 2030.

Dr Tan Yew Chong, secretary general of Primary industries Malaysia (MPI), later added that Malaysia and Indonesia - the world’s top two palm oil producers, had agreed in October to set up a fund to fight anti-palm oil activities through the CPOPC.

The prime minister also officially unveiled oil palm phenolic, a new source of antioxidants and bioactive compounds, which was rolled out as a bulk ingredient in the USA this year and launched as a global product in September by Phenolaeis company.

Phenolaeis was set up in 2011 and granted a worldwide license by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to a set of patents related to the isolation, formulation and use of palm oil phenolics, which is derived from the water stream of the oil palm milling process.

The US-headquartered company completed a joint venture partnership in December 2017 with Entorno Agroforestal and Evergreen Health to form Phenolaeis Mexico.

The substance will be produced at Phenolaeis’ partners’ plantation and mill facilities in Chiapas, Mexico.​