Palm oil processor Sime Darby is considering setting up a vegetable oil plant in France.

The company has earmarked the town of Port-la-Nouvelle in the French region of Languedoc-Roussillon for the facility, which will make edible oils for markets in southern Europe and north Africa.

Sime Darby president and chief executive Dato' Mohd Bakke Salleh said the company has had "fruitful" discussions with local authorities, which, he claimed were "very supportive" of the proposed project. The company has pencilled in the end of 2013 for the site to be operational, subject to feasibility studies and the approval of its board.

"While we continue to assess other potential locations in Europe as well as other parts of the world, the Port-la-Nouvelle location has the added advantage of local feedstock supply as well as its proximity to Sime Darby Plantation's operations in Liberia," Mohd Bakke said.

Under Sime Darby's plans, palm-based feedstock for the plant will "eventually" be sourced from the Liberian operations of its agribusiness subsidiary Sime Darby Plantation. In the shorter term, certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) will be sourced from the company's "other internal sources". Other vegetable oils will be sourced externally, potentially from French farmers in Languedoc-Roussillon.

Sime Darby has a refinery in the Dutch town of Zwijndrecht, which sources CSPO from the group's estates in the Malaysian region of Sabah.

The Malaysia-based conglomerate is the world's largest producer of palm oil. Over a third of its production is CSPO under guidelines by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Sime Darby says it is aiming to have all its production from Malaysia and Indonesia certified as sustainable by the end of the year.