Growers unhappy after being ‘sidelined’

This is written by my colleague Rupa Damodaran.

KUALA LUMPUR: Oil palm growers, one of the stakeholders of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), are dismayed that their interests are not being taken into consideration, as shown at the grouping’s rescheduled 8th General Assembly here yesterday.

“It did not work as we had hoped,” said a dejected grower. All the resolutions submitted by the growers, who are from Malaysia and Indonesia, were voted against.

“Despite all out invested time and energy, the question now is where is the weightage,” he said, adding that growers would soon lose interest in attending the annual meetings.

The Zurich-based RSPO, which was set up eight years ago, seeks to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through credible global standards and engagement of the stakeholders, which come from seven sectors of the palm oil industry.

They are the palm oil producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social or developmental NGOs.

The growers said although their resolutions were debated yesterday, many of the stakeholders who attended shared their sentiments and felt that there was merit in the resolutions that were brought up.

Of the resolutions, four were passed, seven voted against and two withdrawn by the MPOA (Malaysian Palm Oil Association). The two dropped were on multi-stakeholder decision-making and off-set mechanisms.

RSPO president Jan Kees Vis, in a statement, said even though a number of resolutions put forward by the growers from Malaysia and Indonesia were voted against, the executive board found they held significant merit and value.

“While the growers may have felt marginalised with the outcome of the GA8, we’d like to reassure the constituent that we are definitely committed to discuss and deliberate these many propositions to ensure that the fundamental concerns and reservations of the growers are addressed,” he said.

On the resolution on a moratorium for certification, which was proposed by the MPOA and not passed, he said their concern towards CSPO uptake could be addressed through another resolution that was passed, which was on enhancing time bound plan.

"This can be a platform to encourage affirmative response on the demand side of the supply chain," said Vis, who is also global director (sustainable sourcing development) for Unilever.

Meanwhile, the RSPO secretariat said the assembly witnessed the highest ever presence from its global members. It achieved a 58 per cent quorum, more than the required 50 per cent, although 75 per cent of those present were proxies.

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