What challenges do palm oil producers face?

2008 saw the first successful audit of an oil palm plantation against the RSPO principles and criteria. Since then, the volume of RSPO-certified palm oil has grown to now stand at over 5 million tonnes coming from more than 1 million hectares of certified plantations. This substantial growth rate has resulted in the certification of more than 10% of the world’s palm oil.
 
 / ©: James Morgan  / WWF International
Workers at plantation, Riau, Sumatra.
© James Morgan / WWF International
Even more welcome are the estimates of how quickly the supply of RSPO-certified palm oil is set to grow. All producer members of the RSPO are required to submit a time-bound plan for when all their plantations will be certified.

Among the 92 grower members of the RSPO there have been public commitments to produce up to 15 million tonnes of RSPO-certified palm oil by 2020—more than enough to meet the demand for palm oil in Europe and to start also supplying against demand in China and India.

Unfortunately, the users of palm oil in the RSPO have not yet matched these commitments.

Since the first batch of RSPO-certified palm oil was delivered to the market in 2008, less than half of what was available has been bought.

WWF’s 2011 Scorecard shows that, although many retailers and manufacturers using palm oil have made public commitments to use only RSPO-certified palm oil, fewer have made public what volumes of palm oil they use or have started to actually use it.

This situation makes it very difficult for responsible growers, who have made commitments to produce RSPO-certified palm oil, to judge whether they have made the right decisions. It also hinders efforts to persuade other growers to start certifying.

In the longer run, it makes it difficult to persuade certified growers that the RSPO standards need to be improved. All this needs to happen and palm oil users need to play their part in making sure it does.

One of the reasons WWF is publishing a second Scorecard is to help growers ascertain what the likely demand for RSPO-certified palm oil is going to be in the coming years.

That is why we have not only recorded the commitments made but also asked the retailers and manufacturers to disclose what volume of palm oil those commitments represent.

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