The deal comes soon after a recent trade visit by France’s president to Indonesia to negotiate bilateral trade worth more than US$2.2bn a year.
The first French head of state to visit the country in 30 years, President Hollande singled out his wish to develop trade between the countries and voiced a desire to promote certified, sustainable development of Indonesia’s plantation industry through supportive measures.
The group agreed with France’s Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (Cirad), a long-term partner, to create a new “regional platform” to boost sustainability and deliver training in major commodity chains, including palm oil.
The Sustainable Agricultural Landscapes in Southeast Asia (Salsa) project aims to regionally develop scientific and training skills on the sustainability of perennial crops.
It will co-ordinate research, training and development projects to be conducted on the ground through shared experimental networks and training courses tailored for stakeholders.
It builds on the progress GAR has made in developing a sustainable, traceable supply chain, to the point that 60% of its palm oil supply is RSPO-certified, though it is on track to deliver full certification by 2020.
The consortium also features Riset Perkebunan Nusantara, the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community and Socfindo.
“The partnership [between PT Smart and Cirad] dates back more than 20 years, training students, plantation professionals and researchers around the globe, while benefitting the company, its suppliers and 50,000 smallholders through yield improvement and better agronomic practices,” said Daud Dharsono, president of the consortium.
“This R&D partnership has been so successful it was renewed for another 10 years in March 2016. As the world’s second largest vertically-integrated palm oil producer, we hope new learnings through the SALSA platform positively impact the industry as a whole in its journey towards sustainably produced palm oil.”
The French researcher’s managing director-general, Michel Eddi, who had joined the French president for the visit, added: “We believe the answers to ending deforestation and achieving certified, sustainable production lie in capacity-building, and will continue to channel our resources and research and development efforts to these industries to attain this.”