KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Primary Industries will be working hand in hand with smallholders in the plantation sector to achieve the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification, which will be mandatory by end-2019.
Its Minister, Teresa Kok Suh Sim, said the certification would allow smallholders, who account for about 40 per cent of the country’s palm oil production, to upgrade the standard of their crop, hence boosting their market penetration.
“We want all the oil palm plantations and factories to be MSPO-certified so that we could tell the world that our products are of high quality and traceable, which is one of the sustainability criteria requested by the West, especially the European Union,” she told Bernama.
Kok said her ministry would also add more staff and cooperate with the non-governmental organisations to enter the rural areas in Sabah, Sarawak and the peninsula to improve smallholders’ awareness on the importance of the certification.
Sabah, she noted, had also pledged not to expand its plantation area for oil palm and would only utilise the previous agricultural land or degraded land.
“There shall be no issue of deforestation or killing the orangutans, (a misconception that is) widely spread in the EU,” she explained.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal was reported as saying that the state fully agreed with the federal government in upholding Malaysia’s pledge to the international community that the country would maintain at least 50 per cent forest cover of its land mass.
“Once the MSPO has been fully implemented, we want to see the EU stop discriminating against palm oil and acknowledge its benefits,” Kok said.
Of the 5.8 million hectares (ha) of oil palm plantation, one million ha are already MSPO certified and the ministry expects to double the figure soon.
“We urge the smallholders to grab this opportunity now, with the government ready to absorb the MSPO fee,” she said.
During the recent 2019 Budget tabling, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced an allocation of RM30 million to help oil palm smallholders obtain the MSPO certification.
“Be proactive and start the process now, as it will take at least six months to secure the certificate,” she advised.
Regarding the low crude palm oil prices (below RM2,000 per tonne), Kok suggested that smallholders start diversifying their crops.
“They should practise intercropping. As an example, they can alternate planting pineapples or mangoes with oil palm. This initiative would help ease their financial burden if palm oil market prices tumbled,” she said.
On labour shortage, Kok said the Human Resources Ministry had already formed a committee and was conducting a study to gain the overall picture and come out with proper recommendations on the fate of foreign plantation workers.
“It (the results) will come out maybe early next year. Then we will have a total comprehensive policy on foreign workers; only then can we bring in foreign labour here.
“But I think there are plantation companies that have started to look at ways and methods to reduce the dependency on foreign workers through agri-technology. This will be much better than hiring foreign workers,” she added.
It was reported that industry players are facing a shortage of labour in the plantation industry that could impact in the production of fresh fruit bunches per hectare, reduce yield, increase the cost of production and narrow the margin. — Bernama
Source: Borneo Post Online