Palm Oil Producers Responsible For Forest Loss In Indonesia: Greenpeace

International environment conservancy organisation Greenpeace has revealed palm oil producers operating in Indonesia grouped in Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) were apparently the main driver of deforestation in the country between 2009 to 2011.

Based on its analysis, Greenpeace called on international consumer goods producers to take self-verifying efforts on the origin of palm oil they use in their products to assure they are free from crude palm oil produced from activities linked to deforestation.

The analysis also showed that concession areas controlled by crude palm oil firms grouped in the RSPO accounted for 39 per cent of fire hotspots on palm oil concessions in Indonesia’s Riau province from January to June this year, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The RSPO wants its members to be industry leaders in sustainability, but its current standards leave them free to destroy forests and drain peatland. Year after year, Indonesia’s forest fires and haze wreak havoc on the region, and the palm oil sector is a main culprit.

“While RSPO members might have no-fire policies, the peatland they have cleared and drained is like a tinderbox, one spark is all it takes,” Head of Greenpeace International’s Indonesia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said in a statement.

Greenpeace learned that almost all firms rely solely on the RSPO to meet any “sustainability” commitments that qualify their products not linked to forest destruction. It was resulted from Greenpeace’s interviews with over 250 firms worldwide using palm oil in their products.

With evidence that Greenpeace had already obtained, the environmentalist organisation learned that the RSPO is, by far, not fit for such a purpose.

“The household brands we find on our supermarket shelves cannot rely on the RSPO to guarantee they are not linked to forest destruction,” Forest campaigner at Greenpeace International Areeba Hamid said.

Traders in crude palm oil business also give another problem. They control much of the palm oil traded from Indonesia and indiscriminately mix oil from responsible producers with those originated from deforestation concessions in their refineries, Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace activists said that the only solution to assure that the crude palm oil material used by consumer goods producers is free from deforestation activities is “to go beyond the RSPO”. Greenpeace said that some producers have already took such a measure.

“This is the challenge we set to the industry. Brands must find out where their palm oil comes from, and guarantee consumers around the world that forest destruction is not making its way into our products,” Areeba Hamid said.

Indonesia lost some 1.24 million hectares of forest over the 2009-2011 period, equivalent to 620,000 hectares per year, according to the official map issued by the forestry ministry.

Indonesia is the largest producer of crude palm oil that prominently contributes to the country’s exports.