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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, RSPO certification continues to advance in Latin America. The volume of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) has surpassed 1.3 million metric tonnes, and membership applications have also been increasing steadily. Recognising the importance of this market and the need to continuously increase RSPO’s presence in the region, we are pleased to welcome a new Technical Manager in Latin America, Diego Luis Pierrend Weiss, who joined us on 1 April 2020.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Agro-Industrial Engineering from San Ignacio de Loyola University, in Lima, Peru, and a master’s degree in Management and Quality Certification from IMF Business School in Spain, Diego shared his views about the production of sustainable palm oil in the Latin American region. He will work closely with our Latin American team to further develop RSPO’s presence in the market.
What is your background and experience, and how do they help you in your new role at RSPO?
When I came to Colombia, I had to change from just promoting the usual certification to focus more on sustainability certification. Back then, I wasn’t familiar with the palm oil industry, as Peru is not an oil palm producer, unlike Colombia. It was definitely a major shift for me, and that was how I entered the palm oil world.
In Colombia, I started to look into sustainability certification and also started to promote RSPO. I believe I was among the first people to promote RSPO in the Latin American region. I travelled a lot to Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and around Colombia at that time, and I started to become more interested in the palm oil industry. So, I kept promoting RSPO and pushed for its sustainable standards and certification in the region since 2008.
My in-depth knowledge on certification schemes and integrated verification processes will complement the commercial and operational objectives of RSPO. My experience will also help me to provide advice and input into strategic and policy significance to facilitate decision-making and enhance the efficiency of the RSPO Latin America office. I’m also bringing in a lot of different perspectives to the office to improve its internal procedures and management. As I was with a CB previously, a lot of RSPO members know me and I have a good relationship with them, hence it’s easier for me to engage with them.
What are some of the biggest challenges (or opportunities) in the Latin American market in terms of sustainability and certification?
In terms of opportunities, I would say the Latin American region is currently leading in terms of certification, as about 27% of all the palm oil produced in the region are RSPO certified. Besides that, one third of all the HCV areas that are maintained in oil palm plantations are also in the region.
Do you think there’s an opportunity for Latin America to be the global leader of sustainable palm oil production and why/why not?
The export to international markets has also been growing a lot, as the demand for certified products has increased in the last 5 to 6 years. The commercial value of sustainable products and the demand for those products have increased, especially from Europe, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and lately, from the US. So, there’s a lot of opportunities in the market for the Latin American region to grow and to be a leader in sustainable palm oil production
What are your top priorities for the coming months?
Besides that, I also need to focus on smallholders’ certification. Currently, we are working with several countries to increase the certification of smallholders and we have been making good progress on that. In the past few years, I have been travelling to Mexico, Honduras and around Colombia, and I’m pleased to share that we are able to get some smallholder groups to be certified this year. In addition, we also have plans to work with national federations of palm oil and producers in Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, and Guatemala to help them to promote their internal consumption of sustainable palm oil. Generally, we will continue to improve our communication with our members, and assist them in every way we can, including the certification process.
To get in touch with Diego, please feel free to drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org