An Indonesian civil society group, MADANI Berkelanjutan, on Tuesday (18/2) called on all stakeholders in the oil palm industry to work together for a sustainable palm oil sector and overcome the various weaknesses in the industry which have given fodder to critics of the palm oil sector.
“We see that in the next five years, palm oil holds a priority place under the Jokowi regime, particularly, biodiesel. Thus, this is momentum for the Indonesian palm oil industry to improve, so that we can better compete in global and national markets. But we also cannot lie that there are still a lot of major issues in this industry,” said Teguh Surya, Executive Director of MADANI Berkelanjutan.
Teguh said that the palm oil industry in Indonesia, continued to be linked to major negative issues such as illegal palm oil plantations, continuing deforestation, forest and ground fires, violations of workers’ rights and gender equality, and many more.
“If we all agree that palm oil is important, then together, we need to fix and improve our palm oil industry,” Teguh said during a breakfast meeting with the media.
He said that each stakeholder could focus on their own strength, in knowledge and expertise.
Civil society organizations, he said could focus on their proficiency in monitoring, investigating, and publication. Government as regulator, can come out with strong and well-thought regulations while practitioners should not be allergic to these regulations and should abide by them, Teguh said.
He cited as an example of the problems plaguing the industry, the case of a plantation company in Buol, Central Sulawesi.
The company was issued with a permit for the release of an area for it to develop as a plantation just two months after the president came out with his presidential instruction on the Moratorium on new palm oil concessions. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry which issued the concession said that nothing was wrong and everything went according to the law.
But an investigation conducted by Madani found out that despite of its ISPO Certification, the company had already logged out the area and conducted its planting before the permit was even issued.
“Why up until this day, hasn’t there been any response? This is a common situation, but it could become a boomerang for us in the future.” He added.
Similar calls have been made by both government officials and industry experts who have pointed out to the “silo” mentality prevailing in the palm oil industry in producing countries, including in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two largest palm oil producers which account for 85 percent of world supplies.
Teguh said that if everyone got the right part to deal with, “these issues that make us look unfavourable, could be resolved.”