Malaysia to publish oil-palm concession maps in traceability bid

A photo taken on Jan 30, 2019, shows bunches of oil palm fruit being unloaded inside a palm oil mill in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
A photo taken on Jan 30, 2019, shows bunches of oil palm fruit being unloaded inside a palm oil mill in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia, the world's second-largest producer of palm oil, plans to publish concession maps and make them accessible to the public, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council.

The group, also known as MPOCC, said it aims to achieve 100 per cent traceability at the farm level via the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certification scheme - or MSPO - by 2025, according to a statement on Sunday (Dec 15). MPOCC is a sustainability-certification body under the Primary Industries ministry.

The move is another step in making the industry more transparent as oil palm growers face increasing scrutiny over the production of the tropical oil used in everything from chocolate to lipstick and biofuel. Surging cultivation of oil-palm trees has been linked to the burning of tropical rainforests and the destruction of wildlife habitats in South-east Asia, prompting the introduction of so-called sustainable palm oil.

"These efforts are important to convince the international community that palm oil produced in Malaysia is guaranteed in terms of its sustainability and quality, and specifically to counter accusations that link palm products with deforestation, exploitation of workers, abuse of rights of indigenous people, and so on," MPOCC chief executive officer Chew Jit Seng said.

In mid-November, MPOCC launched a mobile-phone app that can trace palm along its supply chain as well as identify locations of estates and processing facilities that have gained sustainable certification.

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QuickTake International industry standards group Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil said on Thursday the Malaysian government granted it permission to make members' concession maps public for Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak. The maps weren't published before because of ambiguity and legality issues in making them publicly available, it said.

MSPO had certified more than 3.5 million hectares, or 60 per cent, of Malaysia's palm estates as of Nov 30, according to the council. A total of 152 palm-oil mills and 46 refineries have gained MSPO supply-chain certification, it said.