- The Ministers responsible for the palm oil industry, Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities of Malaysia, H.E. Dato’ Dr. Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, as the chair of CPOPC, and the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, His Excellency Mr. Airlangga Hartarto, co-chaired the 8th Ministerial Meeting of Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) on Friday, 26 February 2021, via a video conference. The Meeting was attended by the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia, H.E. Rodolfo Enrique Zea Navarro; Minister of Food and Agriculture of Ghana, Hon. Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto; Secretary of State in the Dispatch of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras, and H.E. Ing. Mauricio Guevara Pinto in their capacities as observer countries. SOM leader of Papua New Guinea, Mr. Kepson Pupita, attended the meeting to represent Hon. John Simon, MP, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Papua New Guinea. The meeting was conducted in two sessions. The first was attended by member countries and observer countries as countries in transition to be full members of CPOPC. The second session was attended only by representatives of member countries.
- Minister Dato’ Dr. Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali underlined the uncertainty in the global scenario due to continuous COVID-19 lockdowns that necessitate palm oil-producing countries to strengthen their cooperation to address the foreseeable challenges. Minister Khairuddin also reiterated the statement made by Tan Sri Dato’ Hj. Muhyiddin bin Hj. Mohd. Yassin, the Prime Minister of Malaysia during his official visit to Indonesia as well on 5 February 2021 on the necessity in combating anti-palm oil campaigns by the European Union. Thus, it is important for members and observer countries in combating anti-palm oil campaigns particularly in the EU by utilizing CPOPC platform. In that connection, the Minister was pleased to inform about Malaysia’s submission on request for a consultation with the European Union at the WTO on 15th January 2021. It is hoped that both filings by Malaysia and Indonesia at WTO will pave the way for a fairer and non-discriminatory policy for the palm oil trade. It was also suggested the importance for the palm oil industry to address the sustainable agenda by adopting high standards and the best practices on the environment, wildlife, health and wellbeing, as well as shared prosperity. Minister believed that these efforts would serve as a benchmark to others to follow.
- Minister Airlangga Hartarto conveyed the crucial importance of accelerating the implementation of respective countries biodiesel policy that would cause downward pressure on prices and hence reminded Indonesia and Malaysia to apply B30 and B20 respectively in an effective manner. Minister Airlangga underscored of the need for both countries to strengthen their joint efforts in addressing current and future challenges. While commending some notable progress made such as the establishment of the Scientific Committee and joint positive campaigns, CPOPC was expected to redouble its efforts in ensuring remunerative price of palm oil, improvement in sustainability standards, promoting more support for the small scale farmers, and stronger solidarity and alliance among all producing countries to defend their common interests in all forums such as WTO, main consuming countries and championing standards for all vegetable oils in international organizations based on internationally-agreed development goals, especially the UN SDGs. Minister Airlangga also recommended that that diplomatic solution should also be pursued and in that context commending the ASEAN-EU Joint Working Group on all vegetable oils as a good step in the right direction.
- Ministers of observer countries of Colombia, Ghana, Honduras, and Papua New Guinea participated in the meeting and invited to deliver their remarks. In his statement, Minister Rodolfo Navarro of Colombia said that as the fourth biggest exporter of palm oil, Colombia would continue developing its palm oil sector and committed to produce palm oil in a sustainable way. Colombia closely followed the Indonesian effort in the World Trade Organization, and as a third-party Colombia would present and support arguments against the measures imposed by the European Union. Colombia was committed to be a full member of CPOPC and join the efforts in advancing the interests of palm oil producers. Representing his government, Minister Mauricio Pinto of Honduras highlighted the impacts of pandemic COVID-19 to the country’s palm oil sector. Their limited mobility got worse by the catastrophic events, hurricanes Eta and Iota. Honduras lost 12,000 young plantations and he appealed for technical and non-technical supports from CPOPC.
- In his remarks, Minister Owusu Afriyie Akoto expressed his delight for his country to participate in this ministerial meeting as an observer country. Ghanaian Government has been implementing massive and ambitious programs to expand their oil palm industry. Hence why Ghana is aspiring to join the global oil palm community and take the benefits of the sector by joining CPOPC as a full member in the near future. In second session of the ministerial meeting, Minister Dato’ Dr. Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali and Minister Airlangga Hartarto discussed and adopted some important decisions and documents that mark further milestones for the improvement of organizational foundation, namely CPOPC amended Charter, Financial Regulations, and Procedure on CPOPC Membership Admissions. The CPOPC Charter amendment is of importance for CPOPC to lay a better groundwork for the Council to be more adaptable in addressing foreseeable future such as the commitment to work together with relevant external parties to enable CPOPC to achieve its objectives and goals in a more effective way.
6. The meeting also deliberated some notable progress and developments as follows:
a. Ministers appreciated the first meeting of ASEAN and the European Union Joint Working Group (JWG) on Vegetable Oils in January 2021. The Ministers considered the initiative as essential not only to find a fair objective solution to the discriminatory policies and regulations of the EU but also to hold all vegetable oils accountable to sustainability standards on a holistic approach to the environment and UN SDGs. The ministers encouraged both sides to do their best in preparatory meetings of experts before the second meeting of the JWG in April this year;
b. On the ever-increasing negative campaigns against palm oil in major markets, Ministers encouraged CPOPC to be more proactive in conducting positive campaigns in consumer and producer countries. This positive campaign should not only use a defensive approach, but also educate consumers on using common standards in measuring sustainability based on three dimensions of sustainability, namely environmental, economic, and social, in accordance with the SDGs. Of particular concern is the increasing use of palm oil-free label which has been used to discriminate against palm oil, marketing strategy of certain products, and a blatant breach of fair trade. Positive campaigns should also be directed at the young generation to have an objective and comprehensive understanding of palm oil and other vegetable oils;
c. The meeting suggested CPOPC to continue mainstreaming efforts to support smallholders of the industry, including through the Smallholder Outreach Program involving small-scale farmers in Asia Pacific, Latin America and Central America, and Africa aimed to set-up of a global smallholder alliance platform. The platform will allow palm oil smallholders to interact and discuss relevant issues, to expedite the achievement of SDGs 2030, including channeling their voices in global scenes, promoting cooperation in research and development, and training. The global alliance between palm oil-producing countries should also be based on the full support and active participation of the smallholders. CPOPC, in line with its charter, is committed to support the capacity and welfare of small-scale farmers;
d. The meeting launched the establishment of the CPOPC Scientific Committee as a major step in ensuring a more impactful research program to benefit all stakeholders, including smallholders. The Committee composed of notable experts from member countries to ensure that any proposed research managed by CPOPC is valuable and effective. The results of dedicated research would be constructive and pertinent in achieving more effective and impactful campaigns as a counter-narrative in an intensive science-based campaign; and
e. To commemorate 5 years of CPOPC’s establishment in November 2020, the meeting announced the winners of the photo competition and launched the children’s book on palm oil. Winners of the Photo Competition are citizens of the current and incoming member countries of CPOPC. See the winners here.
e. The children’s book titled “Let’s Become Oil Palm Farmers!” is published in two languages (Bahasa Indonesia and English), digital forms (e-book, video book, and audio book), and will be soon available in languages of the observer countries.
7. The 8th Ministerial Meeting was ended with handover chairmanship of CPOPC from Malaysia to Indonesia which marks the beginning of Indonesia’s chairmanship for the year 2021.