Senator Rita Sarimah Patrick Insol

KUCHING: Senator Rita Sarimah Patrick Insol has appealed for the relevant ministry or Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to increase Sustainable Palm Oil Clusters (SPOCs) in Sarawak to expedite the process of oil palm smallholders in Sarawak obtaining Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification.

She said there were currently 32 SPOCs in Sarawak, whereby each one was managed by a chairman to guide smallholders in the area to obtain their certification.

“In Sarawak, these 32 SPOC managers are managing almost 40,000 private smallholders. This is a ratio of one SPOC manager managing 1,200 smallholders and would need at least three to five years to obtain the certificate,” she said.

She said this when debating the motion of thanks for the royal address by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong at the Dewan Negara session in Putrajaya on Tuesday (Sept 8).

With regard to documentation problems using the District Office channel, she proposed to contact ketua kaum so that they can manage farmers under their respective jurisdiction and guide them in filling out the required forms to be submitted to MPOB, adding that MPOB could even brief the ketua kaum on how to fill out the forms and so on.

Rita explained that in order to meet the needs of the international market for sustainable palm oil, Malaysia had mandated that all oil palm supply chain cultivation complied with the sustainability standards set by the MSPO scheme.

“To date, 85 percent of the area has been certified, but the percentage of MSPO certification among private smallholders is less encouraging,” she said.

Citing a recent statement by Deputy Minister of Plantation and Commodities Willie Mongin, she said that only 45 percent of private smallholders in Sarawak had obtained MSPO certification even though the period to obtain the certificate had passed on December 31 last year.

Besides facing challenges in collecting the required documents, she said that many villagers did not know how to use GPS devices to provide information on the location of their respective farms. She also noted that some who had submitted their forms had yet been notified of the outcome.

Meanwhile, she also called for transparency in setting prices for fresh fruit bunches (FFB) by managers of weighing centres and manufacturers.

“This has caused a lot of grievances among smallholders. My suggestion to MPOB is to regulate the price of FFB,” urged Rita.