Sunday, 23 August 2009

Fonterra’s role in rainforest destruction exposed

Fonterra’s role in rainforest destruction exposed

Auckland, New Zealand - 23 August 2009 – Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, must take responsibility for the part it plays in rainforest destruction and the massive greenhouse gas emissions that result from this destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia, to feed NZ dairy cows, Greenpeace stated today.

A quarter of the world’s production of Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) animal feed, an economic product (1) of the Indonesian and Malaysian palm industry, was imported into New Zealand last year (2) with the majority going to feed dairy cows. Around 95 per cent of all New Zealand dairy farms are shareholders within Fonterra.

Fonterra’s half owned subsidiary RD1 has also forged a joint venture with palm oil giant Wilmar International (3). Wilmar is the world’s largest trader of palm oil’s and kernel and has a reputation as one of the world’s worst rainforest destroying palm companies. Documented cases involving rainforest destruction, illegal burning and sociaῬ conflicts over community lands have been levelled at Wilmar. (4)

“It’s a scandal that Fonterra is feeding its dairy cows a product that is directly contributing to the destruction of the world’s remaining rainforests and to increased climate change,” said Simon Boxer, Greenpeace New Zealand climate campaigner.

“This makes no sense and the New Zealand Government needs to stop Fonterra importing palm kernel expeller into New Zealand,” said Boxer.

Indonesia has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world. Indonesia has already lost 72% of its large intact ancient forest areas (5). According to recent estimates Indonesia is the third largest greenhouse gas polluter of any nation on the planet due to the destruction of its rainforest and peatlands. (6)

Many of Indonesia’s unique forest dwelling animals are also on the brink of extinction including the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.

"This is further evidence that Fonterra’s short-sighted drive for profit is completely unsustainable,” said Boxer.

“Fonterra’s intensification of the dairy industry is fuelling rainforest destruction, increasing greenhouse gas emissions here and abroad, putting pressure on the health of our land and threatens our clean, green reputation. That’s the cost – and I can’t imagine that there are many New Zealanders, including the farming community, ῴhat woulῤ find this situation acceptable."

The import of palm kernel expeller has increased 2,700 fold since 1999, from 400 tonnes to over 1.1million tonnes in 2008 (7) due to the intensification of New Zealand’s dairy sector and Fonterra’s drive for ever greater milk production at lower costs. Over 1.5 million hectares of palm plantations planted on previously rainforested land in Malaysia and Indonesia would have been needed to meet the 2008 New Zealand imports of PKE (8).

None of the PKE imported into New Zealand meets stringent sustainability guidelines. Today’s Sunday Star Times quoted Dr Vengata Rao the secretary general of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as saying that “certainly very little expeller cake coming into New Zealand last year would have been RSPO certified at all”. Greenpeace considers RSPO sustainability standards as not strong enough, as they don™t incluῤe a complete prohibition on rainforest and peatland conversion.

In August, a Greenpeace New Zealand team journeyed to Sumatra, Indonesia accompanied by an independent journalist and an independent New Zealand farmer to document the devastation wrought by palm companies. They visited an orangutan rehabilitation centre and a formerly owned Wilmar palm concession. Whilst under Wilmar’s ownership rainforests were cleared to plant palm, destroying the habitat of the Sumatran tiger (9). Illegal fires were lit that destroyed carbon rich peatlands which led to prosecution by the Indonesian Government. (10)

Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace New Zealand communications manager who led the expedition stated. “Indonesia’s rainforests are being destroyed at one of the fastest rates in the world. New Zealand should be helping to protect the climate and Indonesia’s remaining forests not be destroying them.”