Greenpeace Wants Moratorium on Oil Palm Expansion in Indonesia

JAKARTA ~ Greenpeace called this week for a moratorium on the expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesia’s rainforests and peatlands, warning that soaring world demand is creating an environmental crisis.

It said a two-year investigation into the health of the country’s rainforests and peatlands showed “wholesale” destruction driven by demand from food, cosmetic and biofuel companies.

“Given the urgent nature of the crisis the only solution for the global climate, the regional environment, the wildlife and the forest-dependent communities … is a moratorium on oil palm expansion into rainforest and peatland areas,” the environment watchdog said in a statement.

It accused Anglo-Dutch food group Unilever, one of the largest palm oil corporate consumers in the world, of being behind the destruction of forest and peatland in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island.

It said Unilever annually consumed 1.3 million tons of palm oil or palm oil derivatives with over half coming from Indonesia.

“Unilever has failed to use its power to lead the palm oil sector toward sustainability, either through its own palm oil purchasing or through its role as leader of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil,” Greenpeace said.

Satellite data shows Unilever suppliers are behind the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations in Central Kalimantan, where orangutans are on the brink of extinction, it said.

The destruction of Indonesia’s forests is seen as a major contributor to global warming and climate change.

Indonesia is likely to overtake Malaysia as the world’s top palm oil producer in 2007, due to the dramatically increased area under plantation.

Malaysia is expected to produce 15.82 million tons of crude palm oil in 2007 while Indonesia’s production estimate for the same year stands at 16.4 million tons.

Malaysia and Indonesia together produce 85 percent of the world’s palm oil which is enjoying a boom on the back of strong global demand and tight supply.

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