Pierre Bois D’Enghien

Will Major Purchasers Support Small Farmers?

There is a real test brewing for the world’s major purchasers at November’s RSPO Roundtable and General Assembly.

It is this: do these companies support the livelihoods of small farmers?

This test is about the problems that new planting procedure (NPP) under the RSPO have created for small farmers.

The problems are so acute that there are not just one, but two resolutions calling for the NPP to be reviewed and/or revoked for small farmers.

The NPP requires that all new plantings undertake a HCV assessment, develop an implementation plan, get verification and publish all plans.  When the NPP was finalised there was supposed to be a guidance document published for small farmers. This hasn’t happened.

As a consequence, small farmers have been saddled with procedures that are so burdensome and expensive that it effectively deters them from undertaking new plantings, even if their existing plantings have been audited and certified.

This is a major deterrent for small farmer producers for a system that already has enough trouble attracting and certifying small farmers.

Of the 3 million-plus small farmers producing palm oil around the world, only around 1,400 independent small farmers have been certified. Granted, there are other small farmers who have been certified under group certification models within larger operations but in many cases these costs are covered as part of the group model.

One of the major controversies around palm oil certification – and the consequent barriers to entry for some supply chains — has been its impact on small farmers.

This is a problem that RSPO has struggled with since its inception, and it is well recognised among sustainable development professionals, policy experts and businesses that certification can exclude small farmers from certain markets.

Both resolutions ultimately call for the same thing: a suspension of the NPP for small farmers.

One has been launched by NGO Solidaridad with the backing of some major palm oil companies; the second is from a coalition of smaller Indonesian producers.

The Solidaridad resolution goes into more detail, pointing out that NPP requires a pre-audit by assessors. This is a problem.

Many countries do not have in-country assessors, meaning that small farmers on, say, 50ha, would have to engage overseas assessors to get close to passing the NPP test.

There are some bigger questions that should be asked.

Will the world’s major goods companies support something like this? Will Nestle, Ferrero and others support it?

These companies have been making noise about sustainable development and assisting small farmers in developing countries for decades. This is an opportunity for them to put their money where their mouths are.

They were more than happy to cave to campaign demands that all palm oil production be ‘deforestation free’. But they have at the same time said they will support small farmers.

There’s a clear choice for these companies here in terms of supporting sustainable development. And this doesn’t mean condoning large-scale deforestation. Sustainability is a compromise after all.

But consider also whether the world’s major goods companies would put these types of conditions on small farmers and suppliers from Western countries. If a small woodlot in the US was cleared for corn or soybean farming in the US, would companies like Nestle be putting a test on these small farmers? Would Ferrero be putting these tests on Italian farmers? Would there be a barrier to stop them selling into the supply chain? This is unlikely.

This is also a test for the more radical NGOs that say they support sustainable development. Are they actually going to support small farmers?

There hasn’t been much publicity around this, and nor is there likely to be. But Western companies should consider their response very carefully. The world’s small farmers and the companies, NGOs and governments that support them will be watching them very carefully.

Pierre Bois D’Enghien

RSPO: Room for improvement

RSPO is generally considered the ‘gold standard’ for palm oil certification. There are good reasons for this. The organisation and its processes have been in place for more than ten years. It has a broad range of stakeholder input. It has ‘brand recognition’ among producers, financial institutions, purchasers and other bodies.

But there is no doubt that the focus of the scheme is Southeast Asia. This isn’t surprising. Close to 90 per cent of the world’s oil palm is grown in Southeast Asia.  The scheme’s genesis came from concerns about the environment in that region.

This also means there is a level of antipathy – albeit unintended – to other parts of the world where oil palm is grown. Because of this, there are certain elements of RSPO that simply don’t work in other contexts.

Take, for example, RSPO’s criteria and indicators on natural pest control. They require the reduction or elimination of all pesticides that are classified under the heading ‘1A’ or ‘1B’ in terms of their toxicity by the World Health Organisation. They also require the same of any substances listed under the Rotterdam Convention.

Now look at blast disease, which affects oil palm crops – particularly pre-nurseries – in Africa. Blast disease is very destructive. A severe case in Ghana in 1994 decimated the GOPDC’s (Ghana Oil Palm Development Company) growing stock that year.  The only effective treatment of is the application is carbofuran (carbamate family). This is a pesticide that falls under the ‘1B’ classification (highly hazardous). It is toxic. But most parts of the world – with a few exceptions – permit its use. Those exceptions are the US, Canada, EU and a number of African countries that don’t grow oil palm at industrial level. It comes under the Rotterdam Convention requiring certain handling protocols – but this is not the same as a ban.

It is recognised as the only treatment for blast disease in oil palm by the International Fund for Agricultural Development – a United Nations Agency.

Leaving blast disease untreated can wipe out operations. One agricultural development program suspended loan repayments from farmers following a blast disease incident.

But because the disease – and the insect thought to carry it – aren’t prevalent in Southeast Asia, there’s no need to follow this treatment pathway.

The RSPO P&C state that “There is no prophylactic use of pesticides, except in specific situations identified in national Best Practice guidelines.” But prophylactic use is essential with blast; when soil moisture drops below a certain point, trees become susceptible, and national best practice guidelines don’t exist in most African countries.

The P&C also state that the organisation will “urgently” identify alternatives for these chemicals. But the fact is that there is no urgency outside of Africa.

This is something of a policy vacuum here. There’s no doubt that when the P&Cs were written, all the best intentions were there, whether it was the development of national guidelines and interpretations, or coming up with an alternative to carbofuran. But at this stage this is a problem that has fallen through the cracks.

Here’s an example of the dilemma. Carbofuran itself has been recommended as an alternative to other more toxic pesticides that are banned under the Stockholm Convention.

So what are farmers in Africa actually supposed to do?

The obvious pathways are to have national interpretations completed, or to develop national best practice guidelines. But this is easier said than done. This takes time and money and often requires a level of political and bureaucratic will that is often lacking.

What this particular gap underlines is that the principles of RSPO may have been put together in Singapore or Geneva, but they aren’t applicable to every context.

It also underlines the fact that sometimes the will and the financial means may be there to implement RSPO rules at the firm level, but at the national level it is not high on the list.

A ‘watering down’ of the principles and criteria on pesticides would not be acceptable. Perhaps, instead, it would be possible for RSPO to accept interim national interpretations, or accept national interpretations on specific issues.

Would this be possible? Under RSPO’s organisational rules it’s likely such a measure could work via a measure under the Board of Directors. It would also be likely to be subject to pushback from RSPO’s NGO members.

But what are the alternatives? Plantation developers are likely to go ahead and develop in Africa, regardless of whether certification is available. There are alternative means of financing. The market for vegetable oil in Africa is large and getting larger. This means that these operations will be subject to no RSPO rules.

One of the points that has been made about palm oil certification is that it is the only agricultural commodity with such widely accepted and high standards. No other crop has the same level of scrutiny. One of the dangers is that if the bar is set too high for many operations for palm oil, those who are able to access forest and land for plantation development will either develop or switch to another crop with low (or no) level of scrutiny whatsoever. Rules that RSPO has in place around high conservation value, conservation set-asides, etc. will be nowhere to be seen.

This can’t be an outcome that RSPO or NGOs will be happy with. This will mean worse environmental, social and economic outcomes across the board. In other words, a compromise isn’t just preferable, it’s necessary – particularly if the overall objective is ‘sustainability’.

Pierre Bois D’Enghien

ICYMI: Why Palm Oil Taxes are Neither Effective nor Just

In an opinion editorial featured in Food Navigator, Belgian agronomist Pierre Bois d’Enghien writes about the ineffectiveness of the French Government’s attempt to tax Palm Oil, and why it shouldn’t be reintroduced within the upcoming revision of vegetable oils taxation.

Food Navigator: Why Palm Oil Taxes are Neither Effective nor Just

By Pierre Bois d’Enghien

The French government’s planned palm oil tax was withdrawn in the National Assembly in June as part of the revision of the biodiversity bill. The removal of the tax led to protests from Greens, but was supported by the palm oil sector. In my opinion removing the tax was the right thing to do. What is critical now is that President Hollande commits to not reintroducing the tax, or any other methods that would unjustly target palm oil.

‘First, any French tax on palm oil won’t address the actual causes of deforestation and environmental degradation. And nor can it. Oil palm doesn’t ‘cause’ deforestation.

‘Second, any palm oil tax won’t necessarily encourage certification at the producer end. Certification is expensive and it requires a significant investment on the part of producers.

‘Third, the law may encourage consumption of sustainable palm oil in France, but the bigger question is who gets to determine what ‘sustainable’ palm oil actually is?


Read full opinion editorial here.

Pierre Bois D’Enghien

Si, M. Chanee, l’huile de palme responsable, ne vous en déplaise, ça existe

Paru dans Atlantico: Dans une longue interview accordée au journal Libération, Aurélien Brulé alias Chanee, de l’association « Kalaweit », après avoir dressé un tableau fait de généralisations trompeuses, d’erreurs factuelles et de contradictions en appelle les lecteurs à boycotter l’huile de palme. Pierre Bois D’Enghien défend la filière huile de palme contre les accusations formulées dans le texte.

Pourquoi Chanee s’oppose-t-il à l’huile de palme responsable ?

Dans une longue interview accordée au journal Libération, Aurélien Brulé alias Chanee, de l’association « Kalaweit », après avoir dressé un tableau fait de généralisations trompeuses, d’erreurs factuelles et de contradictions en appelle les lecteurs à boycotter l’huile de palme. En tant qu’auditeur principal RSPO, présent sur les plantations depuis plus de vingt années maintenant, j’ai voulu répondre à ce papier pour que les consommateurs puissent se faire leur propre avis sur ce sujet controversé qu’est l’huile de palme.

A chaque pays sa culture de l’huile de palme

Basé en Indonésie, Chanee, s’appuie sur son expérience personnelle et plus particulièrement sur les faits qu’il a constaté dans certaines plantations autour de lui. Mais il devrait savoir que le palmier à huile est cultivé dans plus de 30 autres pays !

Par conséquent, comment peut-il s’appuyer sur un seul exemple pour nous expliquer « la culture de l’huile de palme » ? Sait-il que, dans le monde, ce sont plus de 3 millions de petits paysans qui travaillent et vivent de l’huile de palme ? Que vont penser les petits producteurs africains qui développent leurs plantations sur des terres inoccupées et n’ont à faire ni à la même faune, ni à la même flore et n’ont pas les mêmes pratiques que les Indonésiens ?

Lire article complet ici

Pierre Bois D’Enghien

Response from Pierre Bois d’Enghien to Upreshpal Singh

From Malaysiakini:

I would like to thank Upreshpal Singh of Friends of the Orang Utans for responding to my article. I am, however, surprised by his lack of constructive debate when it comes to Malaysia’s forests.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) data has been available for more than five months, but he has chosen not to speak on it until now. At the time of the release, even Greenpeace appeared to concede that the global picture on forests is improving; Greenpeace also cited Global Forest Watch data on tree cover and forest cover as a form of confirmation – just as I did.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Dr Doug Boucher also reported the data positively and constructively, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, also drawing on positive data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The key to all of this is a constructive discussion based on the facts and the research. Unfortunately, Upreshpal appears to have chosen instead to focus on personal insults. Why?

My article focused on the positive news for Malaysian forests from the United Nations report but because I work in partnership with the Malaysian palm oil industry – as I do with many sectors around the world – he has used this as an excuse to criticise me personally.

This is an old tactic. In football it is referred to as ‘playing the man, not the ball’. In public debate, if a fact is unfavourable to your argument, you simply discredit whoever is saying it as ‘biased’. That is what Upreshpal finds himself doing. But Upreshpal’s actual disagreement appears to be with the UN FAO, its review processes, its use of the term ‘forest area’, as well as the credibility of Malaysian officials.

The FAO has a process for reviewing and standardising its data; a process that takes place over a number of years with a range of reviewers as well as an advisory board. His outright dismissal of the term ‘forest area’ as ‘dubious’ is somewhat extraordinary. The UN FAO’s definition of forest has been agreed upon by all nations through a consensus process. His is an objection to the idea that a planted forest or a plantation has any value at all.

Assessing forest area, forest cover and/or tree cover is significant, but methodologies and data vary significantly. The UNFAO definition of forests can be be found here (oil palm plantations have never been considered as forest in the FAO definition).

Click here to continue reading the full response

Pierre Bois D’Enghien

Yes, Mr. Chanee, Responsible Palm Oil Does Exist

From Atlantico: In a long interview with the newspaper Liberation, Aurélien Brulé alias Chanee, the association “Kalaweit” after taking a picture because of misleading generalizations, factual errors and contradictions calls readers to boycott palm oil . Pierre Bois D’Enghien defends the palm oil industry against the accusations made in the text.
Chanee is why he opposes responsible palm oil?
In a long interview with the newspaper Liberation, Aurélien Brulé alias Chanee, the association “Kalaweit” after taking a picture because of misleading generalizations, factual errors and contradictions calls readers to boycott palm oil . As a listener main RSPO, present on the plantations for over twenty years now, I wanted to respond to this paper that consumers can make their own opinion on this controversial topic palm oil.
Each country’s culture of palm oil
Based in Indonesia, Chanee, is based on personal experience and in particular on the facts as found in some plantations around. But he should know that oil palm is grown in over 30 other countries!
Therefore, how can it be based on a single example to explain “the culture of palm oil”? Does he know that, worldwide, more than 3 million small farmers who work and live in palm oil? Will think that small African producers who develop their plantations on unused land and have to do or the same fauna, flora or the same and do not have the same practices as the Indonesians?
Add to this the fact that most producing countries have environmental laws that limit drastically any deforestation, prevent burning and impose protect riparian forests; in addition, several producing countries have developed their own sustainability repository (like the MSPO, Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil), others have their national interpretation of RSPO principles and criteria for establishing sustainable sources.
Read full article here
Authors Pierre Bois D’Enghien

Palm Oil – Essential for Food Security

In recent years in Europe, a strong smear campaign relayed by the media has tried to discredit palm oil. Among the main arguments raised was that oil palm should be substituted with other, different, crops.

Yet the question arises: which crops would be able to match oil palm? All competing oilseed crops – sunflower, rapeseed, soy, and others – are far, far behind oil palm on all environmental metrics.

Oil palm is more efficient, uses less land, needs fewer pesticides, and less fertilizer. These are established facts of agronomy. The push to displace oil palm, then, would lead to more land being used; more fertilizer and pesticides needed. This is absurd. Why would we turn our backs on a food source that is so abundantly efficient and simple to grow?

This question is particularly important, in light of food security. It is no accident that most activists calling to replace palm oil live in the comfortable surroundings of Western Europe. They have plentiful food supply, and are rich. Perhaps food security is not at the top of their personal list of concerns.

The question of food security is, however, a critical one for the developing world, and for generations as yet unborn.

With high population growth expected for decades to come, the world is running out of land to produce food. Those who will be hit hardest, are the poorest.

Already, palm oil is a lifeline for the developing world: 3 billion people globally consume palm oil as a major source of energy and vitamins – including in India, sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. As land pressure increases, the ability of oil palm to produce more food, using less land, will become even more vital.

Let’s not just focus on the abstract. What are the numbers?

The United Nations FAO predicts that the earth will house 9 billion people by 2050. To meet their needs, it is estimated that 150 million additional tons of oils and fats will be required each year. Producing 150 million tonnes of oil is a major challenge. It will need a lot of land. Which crop would be best used?

  • 38 million hectares of oil palm; or
  • 187 million hectares of rapeseed
  • 250 million hectares of sunflower
  • 375 million hectares of soybean

Oil palm is so far ahead in terms of productivity. The 150 million hectares between oil palm, and rapeseed, represents an area the size of Mongolia.

A lesson for those who call for replacing palm oil…remember food security and land use. Oil palm is the best option, by far.

Authors Pierre Bois D’Enghien

Malaysia is Green and Growing

More than 190 countries met in Paris last month, on the occasion of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21), and reached a deal to address the issue of climate change. As always, forests and emissions from deforestation received attention throughout the conference.

In this context, it is more important than ever to draw public attention to the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2015 report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The report is titled How Are The World’s Forests Changing?

The FRA, produced every five years to provide a consistent approach to describing the world’s forests and how they are changing (source:, is the most comprehensive examination of forests worldwide, taking data from hundreds of sources and using teams of researchers from around the globe.

Many NGOs have accused the palm oil industry of being a major cause of deforestation, particularly in Malaysia. It has been one of the key pillars of the campaigns to discredit palm oil. But the new data from the FRA changes this.

Malaysia, one of the major players in the palm oil industry, is doing pretty well in terms of managing its forest resources. Indeed, Malaysia’s forest area today is 22,195,100ha or 67.6% (more than two-thirds) of the land area. In 2000, the coverage area was 21,591,000ha. Between 2010 and 2015, forest area has risen by 14,000ha per year. In other words, Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, not decreasing.

Note that the primary forest is 5,041,1000ha (22.7% of forest area), other naturally regenerated forests are 15,188,000ha (68.4% of the total area), and with respect to planted forests, they represent 1,966,000ha or 8.9% of forest area.

Even when looking at forest cover – which calculates at forest canopy cover and includes smaller blocks of trees – Malaysia’s numbers are impressive.

Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute, says Malaysia’s forest cover is around 29,000,000ha, upward of 80%. Malaysia’s numbers are all the more remarkable following the past 25 years (1990-2015), when the global forest area continued to decline gradually as the global population continued to grow.

The positive aspect is that, as noted by the FAO report, “the focus on sustainable forest management has never been so high: more lands are designated as permanent forest, we have established more action and monitoring, reporting, and planning and stakeholder involvement is greater every day, and there is an almost universal legal framework legislating on sustainable forest management. Larger areas are designated for the conservation of biodiversity and simultaneously forests have an increasingly important role in offering products and services.”

The authors also note that in 1990 the world had 4.128 billion hectares of forest; in 2015, this total area decreased to 3.999 billion hectares – bringing the terrestrial coverage rate down from 31.6% to 30.6% in 25 years.

From this point view, Malaysia sets a good example, its forest area decreased only slightly over the past 25 years. The rate of its forest loss has effectively fallen to zero. The decrease in Malaysia’s forest area is smaller than the losses in developed countries such as Australia and Canada.

Malaysians should be proud because one of the main features highlighted by the report is that “the total forest area reported as primary has increased from 1990 to 2015, largely because more countries now report on this forest characteristic. Some countries have reported increases in national primary forest because old-growth forest categories-have-been reclassified (among them, Costa Rica, Japan, Malaysia, Russia and the United States).”

Finally, while the world also focuses on conservation of biodiversity, considerable progress has been made in this regard, since the area designated for biodiversity conservation in Malaysia rose from 1,120,000ha in 1990, to 1,859,000 ha 2015.

There will be detractors in relation to the findings of this report. Some will claim that the use of “forest area” by the FAO is not as reliable as “forest cover”.

But there is a reason for this.

“Forest area” is a longer term measure of land area that is classified as forest over a longer term, while “forest cover” is a snapshot of one point in time. “Forest cover” is subject to disturbances, man-made or otherwise. Think of forest fires, volcanoes, diseases or clearance for environmental purpose (such as fire breaks).

But it is also worth noting that a number of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries such as Canada, Australia and Chile had larger forest area losses than Malaysia over the past 25 years.

After reading all these numbers, it is surprising that some continue to spread the rumour that Malaysia suffers the terrible effects of deforestation. As an observer at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), I am obviously very interested in all of this data. This is a sign that, contrary to what some seem to believe, Malaysians take care of their forests and are aware of this precious piece of national heritage.

The Malaysian people can be proud of this report, and should look to its findings to challenge the international media and those who intentionally spread misinformation about Malaysian palm oil. Malaysia should therefore be lauded. Far from the environmental pariah that some have accused it of being, it is a country that has worked hard to manage its natural resources sustainably.

Obviously this does not mean Malaysia can allow its efforts to cease; environmental management is always a work in progress.

In summary, the key facts from the United Nations FAO report are:

– Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, disproving the accusations of unregulated, indiscriminate mass deforestation.

– Malaysia remains one of the world’s best performers in retention of forest. Forest area currently stands at 67.6% of land area.

– Globally, the news for forests is also improving, biodiversity conservation areas are increasing, and the global rate of forest loss is declining.

Pierre Bois D’Enghien The Oil Palm

La Malaisie est verte et en croissance

Plus de 190 pays se sont rencontrés à Paris le mois dernier à l’occasion de la 2015 Conférence des Nations Unies sur le Changement Climatique (COP 21) et ont conclu un accord pour résoudre le problème du changement climatique. Comme toujours, les forêts et les émissions issues de la déforestation a retenu l’attention tout au long de la conférence.

Dans ce contexte, il est plus important que jamais de susciter l’intérêt du public pour le rapport sur l’évaluation des ressources forestières mondiales 2015 (Forest Ressource Assessment ou FRA) de l’Organisation des Nations Unies pour l’alimentation et l’agriculture (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation ou FAO). Le rapport est intitulé « Comment les forêts de la planète changent-elles ? »

Le FRA, publié tous les 5 ans pour fournir une approche cohérente décrivant les forêts du monde et leur mode d’évolution (source :, est l’examen le plus complet des forêts mondiales, réalisé à partir de données issues de centaines de sources et employant des équipes de chercheurs du monde entier.

Beaucoup d’ONG ont accusé l’industrie de l’huile de palme d’être une cause majeure de déforestation, particulièrement en Malaisie. Elles ont été l’un des principaux piliers des campagnes de décrédibilisation de l’huile de palme. Mais les nouvelles données de la FRA changent la donne.

La Malaisie, qui est l’un des acteurs majeurs de l’industrie de l’huile de palme, présente une assez bonne gestion de ses ressources forestières. En effet, les forêts malaisiennes occupent aujourd’hui 22 195 100 ha, soit 67,6 % (plus des deux tiers) de la superficie du pays. En 2000, la couverture de la région était de 21 591 000 ha. Entre 2010 et 2015, la zone forestière a augmenté de 14 000 ha par an. En d’autres termes, l’aire forestière malaisienne augmente et ne décroît pas.

Notons que la forêt primaire représente 5 041 000 ha (22,7 % de l’aire forestière), les autres forêts régénérées naturellement représentent 15 188 000 ha (68,4 % de l’aire totale) et, en tenant compte des forêts plantées, elles représentent 1 966 000 ha ou 8,9 % de l’aire forestière.

Même lorsqu’on se réfère à la couverture forestière, qui se calcule d’après la couverture de la canopée et inclut des blocs d’arbres de taille inférieure, les chiffres de la Malaisie sont impressionnants.

D’après Global Forest Watch, une initiative de l’institut des ressources mondiales, la couverture forestière malaisienne est d’environ 29 000 000 ha et dépasse 80 %. Les chiffres de la Malaisie sont les plus remarquables à l’issue des 25 dernières années (1990-2015), alors que l’aire forestière mondiale continuait son déclin progressif, proportionnel à la croissance de la population mondiale.

L’aspect positif est que, comme l’a noté le rapport de la FAO, « la priorité accordée à la gestion durable des forêts n’a jamais été aussi élevée : les terrains qualifiés de forêts permanentes sont plus nombreux et nous avons mis en place davantage d’actions, de surveillance, de rapports et de planification. L’implication des parties prenantes est chaque jour plus important et il existe un cadre légal quasi universel pour réguler la gestion durable des forêts. Des zones plus vastes sont assignées à la conservation de la biodiversité, et les forêts ont simultanément un rôle de plus en plus important dans l’offre de produits et de services. »

Les auteurs notent également qu’en 1990, la planète possédait 4,128 milliards d’hectares de forêt ; en 2015, cette aire totale a diminué pour atteindre 3,999 milliards d’hectares, abaissant le taux de couverture terrestres de 31,6 % à 30,6 % en 25 ans.

De ce point de vue, la Malaisie a montré l’exemple, son aire forestière n’a décru que légèrement au cours des 25 dernières années. Son taux de perte forestière a en réalité chuté à zéro. La diminution de l’aire forestière malaisienne est inférieure aux pertes de pays développés comme l’Australie et le Canada.

Les Malaisiens peuvent se sentir fiers, car l’une des principales caractéristiques mises en évidence par le rapport est que « l’aire totale des forêts primaires a augmenté de 1990 à 2015, en grande partie parce que les pays sont plus nombreux à faire état de cette caractéristique de leurs forêts. Certains pays ont fait état d’augmentations de leurs forêts primaires nationales en raison de la reclassification de catégories de forêts primaires (parmi eux, le Costa-Rica, le Japon, la Malaisie, la Russie et les États-Unis) ».

Au final, alors que la planète se concentre sur la conservation de la biodiversité, un progrès considérable a été réalisé à cet égard puisque l’aire dédiée à la conservation de la biodiversité en Malaisie a augmenté de 1 120 000 ha en 1990 à 1 859 000 ha en 2015.

Les résultats de ce rapport pourront susciter des détracteurs. Certains avanceront que l’emploi du terme « aire forestière » par la FAO n’est pas aussi fiable que celui de « couverture forestière ».

Il y a cependant une raison à cela.

L’« aire forestière » est une mesure de long terme de l’aire de terrain classifiée en tant que forêt sur le plus long terme, tandis que la « couverture forestière » est un instantané réalisé à un point donné dans le temps. La « couverture forestière » est sujette à des perturbations d’origines humaine ou autres. On pense ici aux feux de forêt, aux volcans, aux maladies ou aux déforestations à but environnemental (comme les coupe-feux).

Il convient également de noter qu’un certain nombre de pays de l’Organisation pour la Coopération et le Développement Économiques (OCDE) comme le Canada, l’Australie et le Chili ont présenté des pertes forestières plus importantes que la Malaisie au cours des 25 dernières années.

À la lecture de ces chiffres, il est surprenant que certains persistent à propager la rumeur selon laquelle la Malaisie souffre des effets dévastateurs de la déforestation. En tant qu’observateur présent lors de la table ronde sur l’huile de palme durable (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ou RSPO), je suis évidemment très intéressé par ces données. C’est le signe qu’au contraire de ce que certains semblent croire, les Malaisiens prennent soin de leurs forêts et sont conscients qu’elles représentent un élément précieux de leur héritage national.

Le peuple malaisien peut être fier de ce rapport et doit se référer à ses résultats pour affronter les médias internationaux ainsi que ceux qui répandent intentionnellement la désinformation au sujet de l’huile de palme malaisien. La Malaisie mérite ainsi des louanges. Loin d’être le paria environnemental que certains l’ont accusée d’être, c’est un pays qui a travaillé dur en faveur de la gestion durable de ses ressources naturelles.

Bien entendu, cela ne signifie pas que la Malaisie peut abandonner ses efforts ; la gestion environnementale est toujours un travail en cours de réalisation.

En résumé, les faits essentiels à retenir du rapport de la FAO sont les suivants :

– L’aire forestière malaisienne est en augmentation, ce qui dément les accusations de déforestation de masse non régulée et indiscriminée.

– La Malaisie reste l’un des pays ayant les meilleures performances au monde en matière de rétention de forêts. L’aire forestière représente actuellement 67,6 % des terres.

– De manière globale, l’information sur les forêts s’améliore également, les aires de conservation de la biodiversité s’accroissent, et le taux global de perte forestière est en déclin.

Pierre Bois D’Enghien The Oil Palm

Davos et la sécurité alimentaire : les faits sur l’efficacité des oléagineux

Dans le débat sur la durabilité de la filière industrielle de l’huile de palme, s’il est un paramètre important à prendre en considération c’est bien celui du rendement des plantations.

Pourquoi s’agit-il d’un paramètre important ? Car il nous en apprend plus sur l’impact environnemental global de cette plante.

L’importance de celui-ci permet de répondre aux exigences économiques et environnementales à la fois : une production maximale sur une surface minimum.

Or, la moyenne mondiale de production du palmier à huile est de 3,9 tonnes d’huile par hectare et par an. Ce qui correspond à 5 ou 10 fois la production par hectare d’autres plantes oléagineuses (Tournesol, Colza, ….) et une économie foncière pouvant aller jusqu’à 90%. Il est important de le répéter : Par rapport aux autres oléagineux, le palmier à huile préserve plus 90%, du fait de son rendement supérieur.

Certaines plantations de palmiers à huile ont un rendement exceptionnel de 8 tonnes par hectare et par an et améliorent encore l’attractivité de cette culture. En effet en comparant, on constate que les autres oléagineux ont un rendement bien inférieur.

  • Le colza, lui, a une production de 0,7 tonne d’huile/ha/an ;
  • le tournesol, de 0,6 tonne d’huile/ha/an ;
  • le soja de 0,4 tonne d’huile/ha/an.

Il apparaît donc clairement que la production de l’huile de palme est plus rentable en termes d’occupation des sols. C’est le rendement le plus élevé par hectare de toutes les cultures oléagineuses.

Cette production n’a cessé de croître, évoluant de 15,2 millions de tonnes en 1995 à 60 millions de tonnes en 2014. Fait remarquable : pour produire la totalité de l’huile de palme mondiale, on a besoin de moins de la moitié de la superficie nécessaire pour produire la même quantité d’huile avec tous les autres oléagineux (tournesol, soja, colza). L’huile de palme utilise uniquement 0.3% de superficie mondiale, et pourtant produit plus de 30% du total d’huile au monde.

Il convient également de rappeler que ce rendement peut être amélioré de façon significative. Les petits producteurs apportent une contribution vitale à la production mondiale d’huile de palme, mais leurs rendements par hectare sont faibles en comparaison aux grandes entreprises de plantation. Les petits producteurs détiennent également une grande part de la superficie mondiale des plantations – 40% en Malaisie, 90% au Nigeria. Des améliorations aux rendements des petits producteurs à travers le monde amélioreraient sensiblement les rendements mondiaux – et les moyens de subsistance des petits producteurs.

Non seulement l’huile de palme a un rendement supérieur, il a plusieurs autres avantages environnementaux par rapport à ces concurrents oléagineux –

  • L’utilisation d’engrais est sensiblement inférieure.
  • Moins de pesticides nécessaires pour produire l’huile.
  • Niveau inférieur de contribution énergétique nécessaire par tonne d’huile

Ajoutez à cela que l’huile de palme est la seule culture d’oléagineux qui a un certain nombre de normes de certification largement adoptées pour la durabilité.

Conclusion: ne croyez pas ce que vous lisez. L’huile de palme a le meilleur profil environnemental – en ce qui concerne l’utilisation des terres, engrais pesticides, et contribution énergétique – de toute les huiles végétales à travers le monde.

Graphique paru dans The Guardian