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Oil palm growers slam bias e-voting

PETALING JAYA: OIL palm growers are unhappy with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s (RSPO) move to implement electronic voting.

Currently, voting is done via manual balloting or show of hands.

The RSPO, which was formed in 2004, is seen as being lopsided against the growers, who come mainly from Asia. The other stakeholders are based in Europe.

On paper, the growers have four executive board positions from the 12 seats available. However, the other stakeholders, namely the food manufactures and non-governmental organisations, seem to have formed a cartel of their own within the RSPO.

“Already, growers are not adequately represented in RSPO’s decision-making process. So, it is only natural to question the proposal to vote electronically on lopsided proposals that seek to further burden oil palm growers,” said Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron.

“This clear case of biasness in RSPO will lead to undemocratic outcome that is not reflective of the voice of oil palm growers. As the sowing of seeds of discontent worsens, it can and will lead to more sorry state of affairs and eventually… its downfall,” he told Business Times in an interview.

On April 25, the RSPO will vote on proposals on minimising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new plantings, implementing policies countering corruption, adopting human rights policy and banning the use of forced labour.

“While these proposals seem to imply stricter rules for altruistic intent, they are basically aimed at raising growers’ production cost at the discretion of RSPO’s decision makers and, thus, making palm oil exports uncompetitive,” he said.

It was reported that RSPO executive board president Jan Kees Vis said the revised criteria, indicators, and guidance will enhance the effectiveness and relevance of the Principles and Criteria, and help address the sustainability challenges facing oil palm cultivation.

In response, Yusof reiterated that oil palm planters do not agree to changes to the existing eight Principles and 39 Criteria.

In a separate telephone interview from Kuching, Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners’ Association (SOPPOA) secretary-general Philip Ho concurred with MPOC.

“Lopsided decision-makings within RSPO is certainly not a yardstick for any organisation to be viewed as balanced in its presentation of views and opinions,” he said.

Ho cited RSPO’s proposal to impose GHG emission measurement for certification as akin to putting additional and unnecessary burden on oil palm growers when such demands are not imposed on other vegetable oil crops like rapeseed and sunflower.

“How come large cattle and sheep rearing activities, which cause tremendous GHG emissions into the atmosphere, are not subjected to these demands?,” he asked.

Indeed, worldwide areas planted under rapeseed, sunflower and corn far outnumber oil palm but these crops are not subjected to GHG emission checks for certification.

“Where is the justice and fairness in such a scenario? Why are oil palm growers singled out while other oil crop farmers in the developed world are not subjected to these same demands? Why are oil palm growers having to face double standards?” Ho questioned. 

He went on to say SOPPOA members have always fully upheld Malaysia’s laws and stringent measures that are being implemented in the palm oil industry. “We do not agree to RSPO’s imposition of unreasonable and unjustifiable standards,” he said.

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