Sri Lankan grower, Watawala Plantations PLC (WATA), has become the first company in Sri Lanka or South Asia to achieve Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria (P&C) certification for their palm oil mill and concessions in Galle District.
The oil palm plantations of WATA — a joint venture between the diversified conglomerate Sunshine Holdings and Pyramid Wilmar — are located in Udugama, Galle. Watawala also supports smallholder farmers, with approximately 7% of the total fresh fruit bunches (FFB) sourced from the local community. Watawala has had policies in place for the responsible production of palm oil since the acquisition of its first plantation in 1992, before the establishment of the RSPO P&C. Prior to obtaining P&C certification, the company also implemented Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) by committing to sustainable, deforestation-free, and socially responsible palm oil.
“The well-being of the neighbouring village communities, our employees, and the environment are most important to Watawala Plantations. We continuously strive to protect that sanctity by respecting rights, valuing relationships, and operating responsibly in all of our oil palm plantations. The RSPO certification is a testament of our commitment to this responsibility and to achieving our broader goal of a fully sustainable and transparent palm oil supply chain in Sri Lanka,” said Sunshine Holdings Group Managing Director and Watawala Plantations Director, Vish Govindasamy.
Watawala Plantations Chief Executive Officer, Binesh Pananwala, said, “This is a significant achievement for the WATA Sustainable Team that has been working towards obtaining RSPO certification. It underlines our continuous effort and perseverance in maintaining the highest standards in our operations. We are proud of the environmental standards we have achieved, the jobs we have created – 45% of our employees are residents on the estates – and the wider social benefits created for the village communities around the plantations.”
The Sri Lanka Palm Oil Industry Association (POIA) said this week that Sri Lankan companies cultivating oil palm or processing palm oil are committed to achieving certification through sustainability practices, similar to RSPO certification obtained by Watawala Plantations PLC.
Congratulating Watawala Plantations for becoming the first plantation company in South Asia to be awarded the RSPO certification, POIA President, Dr. Rohan Fernando, said it is particularly noteworthy that the company’s palm oil plantations are in Udugama, Galle, the cradle of the local palm oil industry, where cultivation began more than 50 years ago.
“Besides Watawala Plantations, AEN Palm Oil Processing, a joint venture between three plantation companies, has also received RSPO certification for its factory, and we are aware that many other members of the POIA are in the process of obtaining internationally recognised sustainability certifications, despite the adversity they are facing,” Dr. Fernando said.
“The POIA encourages all member companies to adopt Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) because the Association’s objectives go beyond the promotion of sustainable oil palm cultivation in Sri Lanka,” Dr. Fernando added.
“We commend the efforts of Watawala Plantations for being persistent with their efforts to complete the certification process despite the current challenges. Like other palm oil producing countries, Sri Lanka has a fragile natural ecosystem that must be protected. Our intention is to encourage all growers to adopt best practices to improve the yields of their existing concessions, and to ensure harmony with local communities, labourers, farmers and other stakeholders through ‘land use change analysis’, ‘free, prior and informed consent’, and other environmental mechanisms embedded in our standards,” said Kamal Prakash Seth, RSPO India and Sri Lanka Representative.