First-ever responsible palm oil production initiative for Cargill in Latin America

One of the most frequently mentioned sustainability goals I read in food corporations’ sustainability reports is to convert to using 100% sustainably sourced palm oil. This means the oil is grown on plantations certified to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards.

But at present only one-fifth (21%) of palm oil (by volume) is RSPO certified and with around 84% of palm oil produced in Indonesia and Malaysia there have also been moves to develop other growing areas such as in Latin America.

So it was interesting to note the announcement on June 8th about one of the world’s largest agri-business commodity traders Cargill joining forces with the NGO Solidaridad to develop a new palm oil smallholder sustainability programme in Columbia.

This initiative on responsible palm oil will be a first for Cargill in Latin America and is aimed at improving agricultural practices and farmer livelihoods. The two-year programme will work with more than 480 palm farmers through training and technical assistance and assist with achieving RSPO standards and certification.

As well as Cargill and Solidaridad – an international civil society organisation headquartered in Utrecht, the Netherlands, which works across 13 different supply chains and operates out of 10 regional offices – the initiative will also involve C.I. Biocosta S.A. which is a Columbia-based international trading company and Cargill’s supplier base for producers and mills.

Biocosta is a leader in Columbian palm oil exports and works with 700 smallholder farmers accounting for around 50% of palm oil production in the northern region of Columbia. Palm oil is one of the three leading crops grown in the Columbia after coffee and bananas.

Robert Horster, global trading director for Cargill’s Edible Oils Solutions, said: “Our goal is to stimulate inclusion of Columbian farmers in the global palm oil market, boosting their livelihoods and establishing best practices in sustainable agriculture. This programme supports Cargill’s commitment to building a 100-percent transparent, traceable and sustainable palm supply chain by 2020.”

Maria Goretti Esquivel, palm oil programme manager of Solidaridad Columbia, said: “The participation of international buyers, like Cargill, in this kind of initiative is key to fostering sustainability in the palm oil supply chain and advocating for changes in the sector. Through this engagement with Cargill and Biocosta [this will] ensure new economic opportunities for smallholders and the implementation of sustainable practices.”