Pressure once again was exerted against the palm oil industry, this time by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The Dutch airlines asked all its suppliers to avoid palm oil products. If suppliers wanted to continue to become partners of KLM, they were under the obligation of getting an RSPO certification. The demand was recently announced in the airline’s internal magazine, Holland Herald.
The stance of KLM has prompted the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) to send a protest note to the Dutch KLM airline. The letter from the organization that gathers Indonesia and Malaysia, was sent because KLM is deemed to have received wrong information and has been discriminative against palm oil.
In the letter dated November 23, 2017, CPOPC Executive Director, Mahendra Siregar, said that KLM did not understand the latest development in the global vegetable oil market in general and its implication to the global environment.
“With due respect, the policy applied by KLM appears to be misdirected and lacking knowledge on the latest development in the global vegetable oil market, especially related to the environmental issues,” Mahendra said in the letter addressed to KLKM CEO Pieter Elbers.
“I take this opportunity to clarify to KLM. In the vegetable oil market, the productivity of palm oil is much higher than other vegetable oils, such as rapeseed,” Mahendra wrote.
Rapeseed, according to Mahendra, only produces 0.3 ton of vegetable oil per hectare, while soybean and sunflower produce 0.6 ton per hectare. Oil palm can produce three to six tons per hectare therefore the high demand for vegetable oil can only be met by making use of the productivity of palm oil.
As the world’s largest palm oil producer, Indonesia has also already met the requirements set down by palm oil importing countries. One of them is to have an RSPO certificate which is a commitment not to engage in deforestation.
“If you (KLM) wants to promote the RSPO scheme, can I suggest that KLM pays a premium for RSPO certified palm oil? This, of course, will certainly encourage our farmers to adopt this scheme,” Mahendra said.
Indonesia even has a policy of replanting old oil palm crops. The replanting is done on the same land, using seeds with better productivity.
“I note that KLM is currently conducting a development strategy in ASEAN countries, including choosing Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur as regional hubs. Can I suggest that this business extension considers the sensitivity surrounding the debate on palm oil and a much more balanced assessment of sustainability and the global environment,” Mahendra wrote.
KLM is not the first one to act discriminatively against palm oil. Mahendra even admitted that palm oil product was facing extraordinary discrimination, especially in the European Union, because of trade competition in the vegetable oil market. According to him, President oko Widodo has already called that discrimination against palm oil be halted. This was stated by Jokowi during the celebration of 40 years of partnership between ASEAN and the European Union.