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Palm oil sustainability debated on sidelines of G20 summit

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The Indonesian Government, the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) and the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) hosted the first Sustainable Vegetable Oil conference on the sidelines of the G20.
The conference highlighted the role of vegetable oils in global food security, and new collaboration between different parts of the supply chain to ensure going forward.
The event represented the first time the world’s palm oil producing countries had participated in a major multilateral event outside of ASEAN.
The conference opening was addressed by Indonesian Coordinating Minister Hartarto and Malaysian Plantation Minister Kamaruddin, and was addressed by official representatives from Russia, China, India, Ukraine, as well as officials from the WTO, FAO and World Food Program. Officials from the European Union were absent from the event.
This underlined that the world’s major players in the supply chain from the major producers and exporters (e.g. Indonesia and Russia) and the major importers (India and China) are prepared to collaborate to ensure stability of supply for their populations at a time of trade instability and skyrocketing prices.
So although the event was about sustainability, the approach to sustainability was more holistic, and its major objective was demonstrate the role the global vegetable oil supply chain plays in food security.
The presentation from Cedreic Pene at the WTO underlined that although there is very little protectionism around oilseeds, there are much higher levels of protection for the vegetable oil itself.
Pene also highlighted the fact that in addition to Indonesia and Malaysia’s cases against the EU regarding palm oil, both Indonesia and Brazil last month raised issues of market access for vegetable oil with the EU at the WTO.
Maximo Terero of the FAO pointed out that the global vegetable oil market is still vulnerable to significant price shocks because of generally tight supply in the global marketplace.
On prices and supply more broadly, a key talking point at the SVO conference and the IPOC conference was that the global soybean oil price has a significant premium over palm oil, and has been driven up significantly by new US policies. The USDA estimates that around 39 per cent of US soybean oil supply will end up going to US-produced biofuels.
Finally, the presentation from Suresh Motwani at Solidaridad underlined a key message from palm oil producing countries to the European Union and other Western countries -ensure that measures to avoid imported deforestation, do not unintentionally exclude smallholders.
The message throughout all presentations was that there is significant room for greater cooperation between palm oil producers and vegetable oil producers around the globe. Greater cooperation through knowledge sharing and broader communication will only put the vegetable oil industry in a stronger position going forward.