Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, as the Chairman of CPOPC, His Excellency Mr. Airlangga Hartarto, and Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities of Malaysia, H.E. Dato’ Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali co-chaired the CPOPC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forum on 26 February 2021, which was held right after the 8th Ministerial Meeting of CPOPC. The Forum was attended by prominent CEOs from Indonesia and Malaysia, senior officials of member countries, and the Secretariat. The forum was a high-level consultation between the governments and the main representatives of the industry from CPOPC member countries.
The Forum enjoyed the participation of six CEOs from Indonesia: Mr. Franky Oesman Widjaja, President Commissioner PT. Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology Tbk., Mr Bachtiar Karim, Chairman Musim Mas Group, Mr Martias Fangiono, CEO of First Resources Limited, Mr Arif Patrick Rachmat, CEO of PT Triputra Agro Persada, Mr. Joko Supriyono, Vice-President Director of Astra Agro Lestari and concurrently the Chairman of Indonesian Palm Oil Association, and Mr Sahat Sinaga, Executive Director of Indonesian Palm Oil Association. There were five notable CEOs from Malaysia participated in the Forum: YBhg. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Lee Oi Hian, CEO Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, YBhg. Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive IOI Corporation Berhad, Mr. Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha, Group Managing Director Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, Mr Joseph Tek Choon Yee, CEO and Managing Director IJM Plantations Berhad, and Mr Paul Wong Hee Kwong, Group CEO Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad.
In his remarks, Minister Airlangga cited some important issues to discuss, notably, faithful implementation of biodiesel mandate of both countries, discriminatory policies and regulations in consuming countries, addressing new narrative of positive impacts of the industry and its strong commitment for sustainability, developing global norms and principles of sustainable palm oil, and strengthening science-based arguments and advocacy.
In his remarks, Minister Dato’ Dr Mohd Khairuddin said that CPOPC must lead the way in ensuring sustainable production and consumption across the value chain. Strategies to support green growth and sustainability should be CPOPC’s main agenda while ensuring certification and traceability across the value chain. Strengthening the resilience of the sector in the spirit of sustainable production and consumption through innovation and technology application should be the way forward. Public-private partnerships should be prioritized for R&D to develop viable technology solutions that increase yield and productivity and improve working conditions across both, upstream and downstream of the industry.
Following the opening remarks of both co-chairs, Mr. Franky Oesman Widjaja from Indonesia and Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor from Malaysia had the floor as lead presenters representing the CEO colleagues. Mr. Franky Oesman Widjaja commended Indonesian the B30 program which has been instrumental in creating new demand, supporting the CPO price and income of smallholders. Government policies and industry commitments have proven that we could grow palm oil sustainably and therefore positive contribution and impact of palm oil should be our new narratives in educating the world both in consuming as well as in producing countries. Sustainability-based on the UN SDGs is also to be promoted. As well, the clear contribution of palm oil in meeting the SDGs 2030. He appealed that both countries to unite, collaborate and act in concert consistently and persistently. While supporting diplomatic efforts such as the ASEAN-EU Joint Working Group, Mr. Widjaja also suggested showcasing the best of palm oil in the World Economic Forum 2021 in Singapore.
In his intervention, Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor suggested two overarching strategies to be taken up by the industry in the future. Firstly, Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor emphasized the need for focus on neighboring regional market in palm oil trade including strengthening market shares in developing countries including African region, this could reduce the food security risk from a long supply chain, as well as the substantial logistics cost and cost of preserving the quality due to long traveling distance and time. Secondly, He also suggested the collaboration with other vegetable oil producers in the Western World to offer multi-oils solutions in accordance with the usage or purpose, rather than emphasizing on the type and origin of the oils. In addition, he added the need to eliminate point of origin of palm oil and focus to be made to generalise palm oil without emphasis on the origin as practice in hydrocarbon trading.
Some important ideas, suggestions, and recommendations from the interactive discussion are as follows: a) The importance of maintaining the palm oil’s market share in the global vegetable oil market especially considering the market share gap among palm oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, has been narrowing; b) Continue joint efforts to explore the untapped alternative market for palm oil exports, including in Africa. c) The need for palm oil producing countries to have scientific-based counter-argument to address the one-sided claims of the potential negative side effect of palm oil. In this regard, there should be more comprehensive research on the unfavorable policy of the European Union toward palm oil regarding the maximum safe limits of 3-MCPDE and GE in vegetable oils. d) Further expand the palm oil market through the enhancement of downstream products by taking into consideration the versatile use of palm oil. Countries that have robust carbon-free agenda should be the future destination of the export of palm oil downstream products, including biodiesel. e) The Forum also brought up the need for a stronger and collaborative diplomatic approach to address the increasing tariff barrier imposed by some markets.
In terms of promoting the image of palm oil, it was also raised about the benefit of collaboration with competing seed oil producers to offer a multi-oils solution. In his closing remarks, Minister Khairuddin welcomed this Forum as an engagement platform with each other in improving the leadership thinking and future direction of the palm industry to a greater height. He expressed his hope that a distinct forum like the CPOPC CEO Forum would provide a good platform for the governments and the industry players to discuss and exchange valuable views for the mutual benefits of the industry. Minister Airlangga Hartarto suggested that this forum to be regularized and participated by the governments and main stakeholders of CPOPC member countries. He also advised CPOPC to consider a wider consultation platform involving main stakeholders and CEOs both from consuming and producing countries. Such a platform was considered useful to further dialogue in promoting the industry, addressing common concerns, and bridge the gap between producing and consuming countries.