Oil Palms: Market Outlook, Environmental Sustainability, and Social Landscape
REGIONAL ECONOMIC STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR
About the Seminar
In the past 40 years, Malaysia and Indonesia’s rural landscapes have been transformed by oil palms. Having collectively devoted more than 15 million hectares to the crop, these two countries are now the world’s leading producers of oil palm products. The oil palm industry in both countries currently employs over 4 million workers, produces around 84 percent of the world’s total output, and straddles a complex supply chain involving innumerable growers, millers, refiners, traders, manufacturers, food companies, and retailers.
The oil palm industry’s development has driven rapid social and rural changes. Between 1980 and 2009, Malaysia’s oil palm cultivation area increased by 5 times. During the same interval in Indonesia, cultivated area increased by a phenomenal 23 times. The industry’s future growth, however, is limited by barriers to acquiring suitable farmland, as well as uncertain demand prospects in Chinese, Indian, and European consumer markets. Moreover, producers are under pressure to strengthen product certification standards, as firms have come under fire for perpetuating deforestation and exploitative labour practices. Rural livelihoods, including those of oil palm smallholders, have also been threatened by land conflicts, market vulnerability, and low crop yields.
This seminar and its panel of speakers will address several interrelated questions, including: what are the factors shaping the oil palm industry’s development and its value chain in the short to medium term? What is the market outlook for palm oil? How are businesses strengthening its role to ensure environmental sustainability and market access to international markets? Is a new certification standard needed for oil palm? How have rural livelihoods been affected by the continued expansion of the palm oil industry? How are oil palm smallholders impacted by plantations?
About the Speakers
Topic: Overview of Palm Oil Market: Supply, Demand, Value Chain and Challenges
Leow Huey Chuen, is the Director of Asean Plantations Research and oversees a Plantation Team that covers plantation stocks listed on the Singapore Exchange, Bursa Malaysia and Indonesia Stock Exchange. She has been covering the palm oil sector since 2001 and provides sector outlook to institutional clients and senior management of plantation companies in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. She graduated with First Class Honours in Bachelor of Economics (Major in Analytical Economics) and Master of Economics from the University of Malaya.
Topic: Realities and Challenges for Palm Oil Sustainability
Perpetua “Pep” George, General Manager for Group Sustainability of Wilmar International Limited, is responsible for driving and implementing the Group’s sustainability policy and programmes in its own operations as well as on third-party suppliers. Pep is also spearheading Wilmar’s supply chain transformation initiative that guides suppliers – including smallholders – towards sustainable practices. Pep is actively involved in various multi-stakeholder initiatives that Wilmar is a part of, such as, the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) the High Carbon Stock (HSC) Approach Executive Committee, the Tropical Forest Alliance and the Sabah Jurisdictional Approach Steering Committee. Pep has extensive experience in sustainability spanning the entire palm oil value chain, including development of standards and best practice, implementation of sustainable agriculture practices, and developing traceability systems for sustainable sourcing. She has previously worked for Proforest, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Unilever. Pep holds a Masters of Science in ethnobotany; her research expertise is in the natural resource use of local communities, focussing on how land and different forest types are valued amongst the indigenous communities of Sabah.
Topic: Opportunities and Challenges for Smallholder Oil Palm Development in Southeast Asia
Janice Ser Huay Lee, Assistant Professor, Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, is a land system scientist working on the interface of Conservation Biology, Land Use Change, and Agriculture. Much of her work focuses on the social and ecological consequences of human impacts on the environment especially within Southeast Asia. Janice also focuses on the conservation and development challenges faced in the context of commercial and small-scale oil palm expansion in the rural tropics and is deeply interested in the linkages and feedbacks among socio-political, economic and ecological systems, and apply a combination of socioeconomic surveys, geospatial analysis, and simulation modeling in my research to investigate socio-ecological systems.