The sale of certified soy by the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) slated in May to Europe will not pose as a threat to certified palm oil by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
RTRS executive director Agustin Mascotena said the focus of the roundtables was on two different products and “there is no competition but cooperation between us.”
Currently the RTRS has about 150 members from multi-stakeholders ranging from soy producers, industry users/retailers, the NGOs as well as the Swiss, German and Dutch governments.
Both RTRS and RSPO in fact shared many of the same founding members including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Unilever.
“As the RSPO was much ahead in the certification process, we try (with its help) not to repeat the wrong decisions and copy the best tools,” he told StarBiz via email from Buenos Aires recently.
Mascotena said the first batch of soybean farmers from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina were expected to get certification within the next two months.
Therefore, RTRS expect the certified soybean to arrive in Europe by April-May and going into the second half of 2011.
“By October to November, we also expect soybean farmers in India to be certified under the RTRS standard as part of the Soya Producer Support Initiative (Soypsi) programme,” he added.
The Soypsi farmers need to comply with RTRS criteria, with additional criteria included on organic practices such as no-genetically modified organism (GMO) used, earlier cut-off dates on non-deforested land used and soy that is derived exclusively from family farms. The Soypsi criteria address the priority issues for soy.
On the RTRS acceptance level among soybean producing community, Mascotena said: “South America, India and China are going to have the first leading cases on RTRS.”
“As any new process that is also breaking established paradigms, this process is slow and there is a broad range of reactions from first movers too reluctant to change. It is a question of time and the capability to prove the benefits of working under sustainability and responsibility standards.
“It would be an important goal for RTRS to involve North American farmers in this movement via dialogue with their representatives.”
Meanwhile, RSPO advisor M.R. Chandran said it was a good move by RTRS to undertake the initiative for the certification on soybean.
“I’m glad that palm oil is no longer being singled out by the Western countries and the NGOs with the sustainable criteria.
“After soybean, I think the next crop that should be certified is rapeseed,” he added.
On why soybean is sold at a premium compared to palm oil, Chandran said: “Soybean is recognised as a food crop with high protein content rather than its oil, while palm oil is mostly known for its oil.”
Having said that, the CPO price discount to soybean had narrowed significantly to US$40-US$50 per tonne currently, from US$140-US$200 previously.
The RSPO certified palm oil, meanwhile, is sold at a premium of US$10-US$20 per tonne compared to the non-certified palm oil.
Malaysian Estate Owners Association president Boon Weng Siew concurred that certified soybean would not pose as a big threat to certified palm oil.
“There is a stigma that most soybean is GMO food. This is not acceptable particularly in the EU market. That is why the RTRS intiative does not carry the sustainable tagline because it is GMO and also heavily subsidised by the respective governments,” Boon said.
“Palm oil, meanwhile, is not GMO and is not subsidised by the producing countries,” added Boon.
He said it would be difficult for soy to compete with CPO as “palm oil only needs one acre of land to generate one tonne of oil whereas soy will need 10 acres to come up with one tonne of oil.”
Copyright: arcticle: The Star Online