Olam International’s Awala oil palm plantation and mill in Gabon are the first in Africa to be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the company reported on 4 October.

The leading Singapore-headquartered agribusiness first ventured into upstream oil palm plantations in Gabon in 2011 with a 60/40 respective joint venture with the Republic of Gabon.

“The Awala plantation of 6,700ha has single-handedly boosted Africa’s RSPO-certified production hectares by 30% from 21,666 ha,” Olam said.

The other major development for the Olam Palm Gabon (OPG) joint venture is the Mouila plantation which lies to the south of Awala.

“In Mouila, OPG has already planted 31,000ha in full compliance with RSPO guidelines and is progressing towards certification of that area in 2017 as planned.”

Upon reaching full production capacity by 2023, the two plantations would deliver up to 22 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches and 5.2 tonnes of oil per hectare, the company said.

Ranveer Chauhan, managing director and CEO of palm oil and natural rubber at Olam International, said: “Currently, about 17% of the world’s supply of palm oil is certified as sustainable. However, customer demand for sustainable palm oil is rapidly increasing and the RSPO is targeting 100% uptake of certified oil in Europe alone by 2020.

“Africa is the home of oil palm and many think it does not have the necessary infrastructure or governance to support high international standards. This certification shows what can be achieved for any new or old palm plantation development on the continent.”

Olam said the land for the plantation ventures in Gabon was acquired on leasehold from the government and it had set aside a total of 61,000ha for biodiversity, as well as supplying infrastructure and amenities to surrounding communities such as roads, lighting, water pumps and schools.