The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil),  an international multi-stakeholder organization and certification scheme for  sustainable palm oil, has announced the RSPO Smallholders Support  Fund (RSSF) for  eligible oil  palm growers amongst smallholders around the world.

However, UK environmental and anti- deforestation group the Rainforest Foundation (RFUK) said local production of palm oil has already devastated millions  of  acres of rainforest in Malaysia and Indonesia.  “We’ve launched a guide to foods containing palm oil to raise awareness of the impacts associated with the production of this common ingredient,” Rainforest Foundation said. “Now palm oil growers have turned their attention to the rainforests of Central Africa where our recent investigation has found, more than a million acres of forest are imminently threatened. Much more destruction could follow.”

RFUK launched the ethical food product guide in late March that ranked chocolate products based on their palm oil use, giving top ranking to companies that  use no  palm oil, or those that use 100% supply chain-segregated RSPO-certified palm oil.

The RSPO told RFUK that the palm oil sector is riddled with detrimental consequences from unsustainable practices, which is why the RSPO is highly committed to  making a radical transformation in ensuring sustainable palm oil becomes the norm.

RSPO later announced that the current estimated annual production capacity of RSPO- certified sustainable palm  oil is 8.2 million metric tonnes, approximately 15%  of global palm oil production. “Spread over 2.2 million hectares of certified area,  about  48.2% of the world’s current RSPO- certified sustainable palm  oil production capacity comes from  Indonesia, followed by 43.9% from Malaysia, and the remaining 7.9% from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Cambodia, Brazil, Colombia and Ivory Coast,” RSPO said.

The RSPO Smallholders Support Fund will include largest oil palm producing countries Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Latin America and Africa, amongst other producing nations.

The  RSSF is introduced in acknowledgement of  the imperative  and  dominant role smallholders around  the world play in the palm oil sector to promote and increase the  production  of  Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) so that market transformation is realized, the RSPO said.

In September 2012, the RSPO announced its first certification of independent smallholders in  Thailand through group certification. The   community  comprised 412  smallholders  over 2,767.33  hectares of  planted land with an opportunity to trade approximately 52,000 mt of  certified sustainable fresh fruit bunches.

Darrel Webber, secretary general of the RSPO commented that: “The primary challenge for  smallholders to become  certified  include lack of awareness  on benefits of being certified; funding support and lack of expertise or capacity building. Given the significant ratio of smallholders in  the  palm  oil  sector –  it is  critical they  continue  to be central in  our  strategy to catapult  sustainable practices in  the sector towards market transformation.”

The  RSPO  executive board approved the institution of RSES and its mechanism on 29   October  2012   whereby 10% of income generated from the trading of CSPO will be allocated for smallholders. In addition to this, 50% of any remaining surplus of income within  the  financial year of RSPO   will  be   channelled towards the same mechanism.

The deployment of the RSSF will be deliberated by a panel comprising  select  members from the Smallholders Working Group. Its key function is to develop the strategic plans for the RSSF as well as to develop, review, process and  identify projects  for   approval.  The Panel will convene 4 times a year i.e. February, May, August and  November. Applications can  be  submitted  any  time within the year.