Writer: Prangthong Jitcharoenkul, Junior Communication Officer, GIZ Thailand’s Agriculture and Food Cluster
Notwithstanding all challenges, relevant stakeholders stay committed to make palm oil supply chain in Thailand more sustainable.
“Currently, Thailand’s sustainability standard for palm oil is being developed. The efforts will drum up support from the government to promote responsible practices among oil palm growers in the long term,” Mrs. Malinee Yuwananonta, Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Commodities Promotion and Management at the Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) spoke during the panel discussion on “Sustainable palm oil production – Challenges of Thai small-scale farmers” at PALMEX Thailand.
Thailand is the third largest palm oil producing countries in the world. However, only two per cent of palm oil production in the country is ‘sustainably produced’.
To unleash farmers’ potential in producing palm oil more responsibly, Mrs. Malinee said the Thai government has been working closely with German International Organization (GIZ) towards the sustainability goals through Sustainable and Climate-friendly Palm Oil Production and Procurement (SCPOPP).
Even though a majority of the Thai palm oil industries are aware of importance of sustainable palm oil, Mr. Walratep Punturaumporn, Advisor of the Thai Palm Oil Refinery Association said it is still difficult to convince companies to commit in sourcing sustainable palm oil.
“The number of companies that does not take sustainability issues into accounts, known as a grey market, is predominant unless the sustainable practice is made a compulsory choice,” he told the participants.
Mr. Walratep has also voiced his concerns over the cost of RSPO certification saying it is too high for small-scale farmers especially when prices of oil palm suffer a sharp fall.
He suggested that the government should provide subsidy which can help the small farmers cover the cost.
While Phansak Jitrat, President of the Krabi Provincial Farmers Council said even though many farmers have been gathered together as a group, various farmer groups still lack knowledge on sustainable practices and group management. “For example, they [farmers] do not maintain farm records so they do not know whether they have performed well or not.”
Amid the challenging outlook, Kanokwan Saswattecha, Project Manager of Sustainable and Climate-friendly Palm Oil Production and Procurement (SCPOPP) remains optimistic that these main challenges of farmers will gradually be eliminated from the supply chain in the oil palm industry.
“Thai small-scale farmers are now more open to sustainable palm oil and willing to adopt sustainable practices if the benefits are materialized. More companies and other agencies concerned will get on board if the Thai government pushes sustainable palm oil development plan continuously,” Kanokwan said
According to Ms. Julia Majail, Director of Standard Development Associate of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the global demand for sustainable sourcing of palm oil has increased gradually but less than 19 per cent of the world’s palm oil is sustainably produced.
To ease small farmers’ adoption of the RSPO standard, the global non-profit association is focused on simplifying the process along with jurisdictional certification, a promising new approach that requires a strong commitment from the government to take a leading role in guaranteeing transparency and governance of the palm oil supply chain.
The panel discussion at PALMEX Thailand was held on 22 August 2019 at Ambassador City Jomtien Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand.
Participants are from the RSPO, Thai Palm Oil Refinery Association, Krabi Farmers Council and the DOAE.
The panel discussion aims to raise awareness on sustainable palm oil production and responsible sourcing and highlight key challenges of Thai palm oil industry, in particular small-scale farmers and supports they need.