Indonesia appoints auditors for green palm oil body

Reuters 18 Jul 11;

JAKARTA, July 18 (Reuters) - Indonesia is forging ahead with its own green palm oil body to regulate and punish firms that do not adhere to environmental standards.

About a dozen independent auditors for the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standard have been appointed, Gamal Nasir, Director-General of Plantation at the Agriculture Ministry, said on Monday.

The auditors will examine the entire operations of palm oil firms as part of the ISPO certification.

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil that is used in cosmetics, cookies and ice cream but is a major cause of deforestation as demand for the edible oil increases. The industry has come under increasing pressure to improve practices and halt deforestation blamed for speeding up climate change, ruining watersheds and destroying wildlife.

"They (auditors) could start the certification process now because we have appointed them and we also have asked them to do the certification. So, they can do it as soon as possible," Gamal told reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary meeting.

He said the ministry had also sent a letter of invitation to related government institutions to take part in the ISPO group.

But in a possible sign the initiative could be slow to take off, Gamal said there had been no response from the institutions so far.

"We have decided that although we have not gotten a permanent ISPO Commission, ISPO secretariat and ISPO appraisal team, the auditors still can start the ISPO certification process right now, or early next month, at the latest," he said. "ISPO certification process will take only 1-2 months."

The planned ISPO commission would consist of officials from government institutions and ministries, palm oil associations and NGOs, Gamal had said previously.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), comprising planters, green groups and consumers, is the only other major organisation to have set up green standards for the whole industry.

But unlike RSPO, which does not impose sanctions on members who violate its voluntary standards, those found to be breaking ISPO rules will be punished by law, a ministry official said last November.

Earlier this year, the secretary-general of the RSPO described the ISPO as "excellent" and said it would complement the RSPO. .

Some major palm oil consumers such as Unilever stopped buying palm oil from Indonesian firm SMART on concerns over deforestation, while an Indonesian moratorium on new permits to clear forests may slow industry expansion. The moratorium came into force in May for an initial two years.

Indonesia's sustainable palm oil certification begins in August
Linda Yulisman, The Jakarta Post 19 Jul 11;

Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, will implement the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification next month, which will be mandatory for all oil palm plantations in the country, an official says.

Agriculture Ministry plantation director general Gamal Nasir said in Jakarta on Monday that 12 auditors, including PT Mutu Agung Lestari, which was appointed to conduct a trial implementation, would handle the certification process at plantations.

Plantations already certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) would be prioritized, as they had been assessed under similar criteria.

“It will take between one and two months to carry out the process at the palm oil plantations,” he said.

Gamal added that other palm oil plantations would be required to apply for the certification with the ISPO office, which would be established soon.

“I’ve requested that institutions related to handling palm oil issues, such as the Environment Ministry, Forestry Ministry, Industry Ministry and Trade Ministry, become part of the ISPO committee, office and evaluation team,” he said.

When asked about the fee that the plantations would pay for the certification, Gamal declined to comment, saying the topic was still under discussion.

“I guess the certification will not be expensive any more,” he said, adding that the government would consider the possibility of offering subsidies to smallholder plantations in the certification process.

In March, the government commenced a trial implementation of the certification scheme at 20 oil palm plantations as part of its effort to require oil palm plantations to apply for ISPO certification starting in 2012.

Included in the ISPO pilot projects were plantations controlled by PT Rea Kaltim Plan, PT Ivomas Tunggal, PT Sime Indo Agro, PT Sumber Indah Perkasa, PT Gunung Sejahtera and state-owned companies such as PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) III, V, VI and XIII.

The ISPO certification covered various measures such as plantation licenses and plantation management, cultivation techniques, environmental management, surveillance and responsibilities to employees and the community.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) chairman, Fadhil Hasan, welcomed the move, saying that the government needed to prepare the executing institutions and details on how the certification could be implemented.

“Dissemination of information about concepts and mechanisms of ISPO certification among palm oil industrial players is needed,” he said, adding that revisions could be made along with the implementation.

The ISPO scheme was unveiled last year by Agriculture Minister Suswono and was considered by many as a rival to the Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO, which, according to Indonesia’s palm oil industry, was biased toward buyer countries and too expensive.