Malaysia to publish oil palm concession maps

Palm oil planation in Malaysia
Palm oil planation in Malaysia. Source: wikipedia

Mongabay, 19 Dec 2019 | The Malaysian government has decided to allow the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to publish maps of corporate land concessions for Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, in a bid to boost transparency.

The RSPO, which is the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production, called the move a “milestone” that could leave top palm oil producer Indonesia further behind in the pursuit of transparency in the sector. RSPO is a voluntary certification scheme whose members include producers, traders and buyers of the commodity, as well as NGOs, in about 90 countries.

So far, in Malaysia — the world’s second-largest palm oil producer — only the maps for Sabah state had been published in RSPO’s interactive map application, GeoRSPO. Now all oil palm concession boundaries of RSPO members in the country are publicly available through GeoRSPO after the roundtable received the legal go-ahead from the Malaysian government. The RSPO published the latest maps on Dec. 12.

These maps display relevant data including active hotspots, tree cover loss, tree cover gain and more. “It is a great step forward for transparency and accountability,” said Darrel Webber, chief executive of the Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO. “We hope this move will bring greater objectivity to discussions on fires and other topics that have sometimes been attributed to the palm oil sector.”

Denise Westerhout, a markets specialist at WWF, called the move “a true game-changer.” Andika Putraditama, sustainable commodities and business manager at think tank the World Resources Institute, said it “would go a long way to accelerate the transformation of the palm oil industry to be more sustainable.”

Greenpeace forest campaigner Annisa Rahmawati, however, said the move was “too little, too late.” For one, she said, the data doesn’t include RSPO members’ third-party suppliers, which make up much of production. “It’s too little because the RSPO’s definition of group ownership is not sufficient and is poorly implemented,” Annisa said. “It’s too little because the data isn’t downloadable as shapefile or other geodata format permitting analysis. And it’s five years too late because the RSPO resolved to do this in 2013, setting a 2014 deadline for publication.” …

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Malaysia to publish oil palm concession maps

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