Malaysia is the global leader in certified sustainable palm oil production. Sustainable palm oil is considered by many to be an essential commodity, because it can provide for the needs of millions while preserving rainforests, natural habitats while minimizing greenhouse emissions. Now Malaysia’s new palm oil industry leadership is going public about its plans to expand the use of certified sustainable palm oil around the world. 

In the first of a two-part series, Food Navigator-Asia quotes newly appointed Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) CEO Datuk Dr. Wan Zawawi, who explained that Malaysia intends to shake up the status quo among palm oil importers. 

“The current palm oil market only has two major palm oil exporters: Indonesia takes about 70% and we take about 26% to 27% and it has been this way for some time,” he told the publication. “If we don’t seek to diversify our export markets and find new markets to break into, then this will remain forever stagnant and Malaysia will remain at 27%. So, we need to diversify to break away from traditional markets and this stagnation.”

Malaysia’s track record for sustainable palm oil production far exceeds that of Indonesia. As of August 2021, nearly 90% of Malaysia’s palm oil is certified sustainable through its nationally mandated MSPO certification program. 

China and India are two important palm oil markets. In part two of the Food Navigator-Asia series, Zawawai said there are signs that both nations are beginning to place more importance on sustainability. 

“This is based on various activities we have noted happening there recently, such as the establishment of a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) office in China, the launch of the China Sustainable Palm Oil Alliance, and the India Palm Oil Sustainability Framework. … All of these things indicate a move towards sustainability, and that sustainability will become a major driving force for palm oil in these countries moving forward.” 

Malaysia continues to improve its ecological impact. MPOC Science and Environment Director Dr. Ruslan Abdullah told Food Navigator-Asia, “We are already in the midst of many sustainability programs, from an initiative to plant one million trees to the conservation and ‘rewilding’ (breeding in captivity then training to survive in jungle before releasing) of wild animals such as the Malayan tiger and increasing the use of technology to prove traceability and sustainability.” 

He added, “Two of the animals that has often been used by conservationists to attack palm oil, saying that the populations have dwindled due to deforestation, are the orangutan and Bornean pygmy elephants, and we have also embarked on a population survey in Borneo for both of these animals to prove that the population has in fact not only not decreased, but has increased over the years.” 

The Malaysian palm oil industry is also working to increase the use of modern technologies for traceability and sustainability including artificial intelligence and blockchain.