The roundtable, a global association created by organisations carrying out activities in and around the entire palm oil supply chain, aims to make sustainable palm oil a reality.
It also aims to address growing criticism of the industry's environmental impact.
A few months ago for example, pressure group Friends of the earth (FoE) published its `Oil for Ape Scandal' study, which claimed that that without urgent intervention the palm oil trade could cause the extinction of the orang-utan ape within 12 years.
The problem, according to FoE, is that over 89 per cent of all palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia, and as a result almost 90 percent of the orang-utan's habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia has now been destroyed.
Palm oil is found in a diverse range of products on our supermarket shelves including bread, crisps and margarine. The product is currently enjoying strong appeal as an ingredient because it is free of artery-clogging trans fats, formed when fats are hydrogenated to make them more solid and extend their shelf life.
In addition, the oil also continues to benefit from a growing awareness of the health properties of the antioxidant-rich oil. According to the UK's Food and Drink Federation (FDF) over 95 million tonnes of vegetable oil are produced worldwide every year, of which 29 per cent is produced by the oil palm, the world's second largest oil crop after soy.
Malaysian palm oil prices are expected to edge up by 2-5 per cent in the near future on the back of growing demand in Europe for alternative fuels, suggests a report.Demand for alternative fuels - triggered by the surge in oil prices - has already had a significant impact on another key commodity in the food sector, sugar. But palm oil, the cheapest of the edible plant-derived oils, has been somewhat protected by the plentiful supply from key producers in Malaysia and Indonesia.
A recent survey revealed that RSPO members produce over 10.3 million tons of palm oil annually, which amounts to more than one third of the globally traded volume of palm oil. It is therefore an influential player in the palm oil market.
The roundtable is currently undergoing a two-year pilot testing period for the implementation of the Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production with preliminary results expected during the 4th Roundtable Meeting (RT4) on Sustainable Palm Oil scheduled for 21 & 22 November 2006 in Singapore.
In addition, RSPO is committed to the principle of promoting sustainable palm oil by developing verification and certification mechanisms to meet the anticipated demand for sustainable palm oil globally.
Since its formal inception in April 2004, the total membership of RSPO (including affiliate members) has grown steadily and now stands at more than 140 organisations and individuals.