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Sustainable palm oil reaches million hectare mark

By Nathan Gray , 29-Aug-2011

The first one million hectares of certified land for sustainable palm production marks ‘a turning point’ for industry, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

RSPO secretary general Darrel Webber welcomed the milestone achievement, saying that the reaching the mark shows that industry is “undoubtedly at the threshold of significant transformation.”

The achievement of the one million mark follows the certification of new mills and supply base in the shape of South American producer Agropalma – which also represents the first certification of sustainable palm oil in Brazil.

“The certification of Agropalma in Brazil, RSPO marks a new phase of expansion in Latin America,” said Webber

“Our priority is to fortify RSPO as a truly global effort in the production of sustainable palm oil according to good environmental, social and economic standards … Today’s landmark achievement encourages us to continue our vision and mission around the world,” he added.

RSPO membership has increased by a massive 30% since the beginning of 2011, and is made up of over 650 member organizations from 50 countries to date.

The industry body represents a broad spectrum of industries from consumer goods manufacturers in the food and cosmetics industry, processors & traders, the financial sector, retailers, and non- governmental organizations.

Palm production

Palm oil is the most commonly used vegetable oil worldwide, used in processed foods including biscuits, confectionery, margarine, ice cream and as a flavouring agent and texturiser. It is also incorporated into cosmetics and personal care products like soap and lipstick as well as being used for biofuels.

According to the RSPO it is estimated that about half of the packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil.

As demand for palm oil has increased, so have concerns about its sustainability. Where palm oil plantation areas have expanded in producing countries this has been at the expense of tropical rainforests, leading to worries about the preservation of the natural environment and the effect of palm oil plantations on local wildlife.

In addition, issues in labour relations and the use of pesticides at plantations have become a concern to many.

As a result, a number of consumer goods companies and retailers have made promises regarding their use of sustainable palm oil; including Unilever which has pledged to use only sustainable palm oil by 2015.

The certification of Agropalma, takes global production of sustainable palm over five million tonnes – a figure that is growing by around 10% year on year.

Marcello Brito, commercial and sustainability director of the Agropalma Group said that the certification ensures the viability of sustainable production, “clearly illustrates the feasibility of developing a major crop production in the Brazilian Amazon region.”

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