Report scathes Indian companies for rainforest plunder

Condemns corporates for destroying Indonesian rainforests for palm oil plantation


Geetanjali Minhas | June 20, 2012

As leaders from developed and developing nations meet in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday to discuss and reach an agreement on their political commitments for sustainable development at the UN Rio+20 Summit, Greenpeace India’s investigative report, “Frying the Forest”- How India’s use of Palm Oil is having a devastating impact on Indonesia’s rainforests, tigers and global climate has condemned Indian corporates. The report condemns corporates like ITC, Britannia, Godrej and Ruchi Soya for destroying Indonesian rainforests by their use of palm oil leading to worsening climate change and endangering the already endangered Sumatrian Tiger and Orangutan.

According to the report 13 million hectares of forests, mainly tropical rainforests are cleared every year and converted into agricultural land globally, including palm oil plantations. This has put the ecosystem, habitat, livelihoods of tens of millions of people depending on the forest at risk. Climate change, falling crop yields caused by floods, draught, erratic rainfall and other climate change affects approx 2.2 billion Asian farmers. “Destruction and degradation of forests is responsible for up to 1/5th of the annual global greenhouse gas emissions,” says the report.

Despite the recent commitment by Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) to a ‘no deforestation footprint’ and Indonesian government’s commitment to strengthen the deforestation moratorium, destruction of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands for palm oil continues.

“Duta Palma in Riau province of Indonesia despite being a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil continues to destroy rainforests and peatlands. Here India cannot absolve itself of the responsibility as Duta Palma is a supplier to the Indian companies like Ruchi Soya, Adani-Wilmar, Cargill, Gokul Refoils, Emami and WF among others. Through Ruchi Soya, palm oil further moves via supply chains of major Indian brands like Britannia, ITC, Bunge India, Lotte India Cadbury(Kraft) India and Nestle India,” says the report.

Pointing that even state companies like PEC Limited under the ministry of commerce and industry and state trading corporation (STC) are Indonesian palm oil importers, the study criticizes both the governments for not making commitments to ensure that the palm oil they purchase is not linked to deforestation and peatland destruction.

Nandikesh Sivalingam Greenpeace forest campaigner said that despite their requests, no Indian company has so far made commitments to ensure that their palm oil and other supply chain components are not linked to deforestation. This poses a risk to their brands. “Greenpeace is urging Indian companies using palm oil to show true leadership and demonstrate that their sustainability commitments are not mere promises,” he said.

Asking Indian companies to stop trading with companies that destroy forests and peatlands and stop sourcing from third party suppliers who refuse to rule out supply from companies like Duta Palma, Greenpeace  wants oil producers to operate in compliance with local laws and national regulations in their plantations and operations and ensure implementation of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous  people and other traditional forest users, participation of local communities in all developmental activities. To preserve biodiversity it calls for stopping deforestation and making it a central part of the political and corporate policy for taking the challenge of climate change.

In India, palm oil is the cheapest edible oil available and is the world’s largest market. With 7.2 million tonnes consumption of palm oil in 2011-2012, it is more than China (16%) and EU (14%) and 19% of the global total. Since 06-07, India’s palm oil consumption has doubled and slated to continue in the same pattern until 2030. By 2050, its consumption will triple.

Most of it is imported from Indonesia and is used in packaged food, cosmetics and even fuel. In 2009-2010, 5.8 million tonnes was imported from Indonesia out of its total consumption of 6.5million. Greenpeace report says that to establish palm oil plantations, forest is cleared and peatland drained which results in release of a huge amount of greenhouse gas.

Despite Indonesia’s National Climate Change Council statistics that palm oil sector is the key driver for natural forest loss and peatland degradation, it accounts for 17% of the world’s deforestation-related GHG emissions.

Annually, 1.8 billion tonnes of climate changing carbon dioxide emissions are released by degradation and burning of country’s peatlands from less than 0.1% of land on earth. These GHG emissions are comparable to the total reduction in annual emissions required under the Kyoto protocol from Annex 1 industrialised nations.



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