Friday, 27 February 2009

Palm oil companies; frequently agents of death and destruction

At the moment I can see nothing stopping this relentless decimation of wildlife in SE Asia. With the exception of Greenpeace, big 'conservation' groups seem to be unwilling to do much (pro-rata their budgets) about this kind of thing and the small groups seem overwhelmed, under-skilled and under-resourced.

It is extraordinary as well as terrifying how this can be happening in our lifetime with so very few people prepared to take a high-profile (even low profile) public position on the issue of palm oil. The country with, at least in my view and experience, the most conservation groups, the most money, but does the least on the issues concerning the growth of palm oil plantations - the most important one effecting orangutans and other wildlife, is …………………….the USA.

And as for Canada, words fail me, other than to say if Canadian citizens have any concerns about the damage done by palm oil companies, their silence is deafening. I don't know of one conservation group in all of Canada which has made even a public statement on this issue, let alone written to retailers etc.

Conversely, even perversely, in Kalimantan (Borneo) it is US funded groups who have the massive budgets and nothing to show for what they claim to be doing: Don't believe me? Then try asking them to prove what they spend their millions of dollars on and how many orangutans it has saved.

The question to ask is: What did you actually achieve last year and what did you spend? The fact of the matter is, if any group is not making significant and cost effective progress, then it is failing.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are some of the reasons why all these animals are being slaughtered. In my opinion many people are failing in their responsibilities whilst making excuses why they cannot do this or that - I hear this all the time. But, this is all they are, excuses, coming from people who often make a good living out of the very same animals they proclaim to be helping.

Let's hope some of these very large groups like Conservation International,WWF, USAid/OCSP, WCS, etc will come under increased scrutiny sooner rather than later. Like the banks we might then find people at the top of some groups paid obscene salaries, with generous allowances, and failing their 'customers' (donors). Many such groups have had it very easy for a very long time, much like the banks the money flowed in and out with little accountability.

If you have not read "Green Inc", you will not have any idea as to the scale of this issue, in which case you need to read this book!


» 02/27/2009 15:08

Borneo, pygmy elephant at risk of extinction

The animal is very fond of palm oil, a precious resource for Malaysian industry, which kills the pachyderms to protect production. In 2008, exports of palm oil derivatives totalled more than 17 billion U.S. dollars. The WWF is asking for "long term" solutions to preserve the species.

Sukau (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In Malaysia, the pygmy elephant is at risk of extinction. The species - a variation of the common elephant - faces the threat of the Malaysian palm oil industry, which is not hesitating to wipe out the remaining specimens in order to defend the plantations.

Groups of pygmy elephants on the island of Malaysian Borneo are encroaching on the palm plantations, which over time have reduced their natural habitat. The animals eat the heart of the oil palm, leading to genuine battles with farmers.

According to WWF estimates, in the northeastern state of Sabah - crossed by the Kinabatagan river - there are 1500 pygmy elephants remaining: they were once considered the descendants of specimens from a private zoo belonging to the sultan of Sulu; now the dominant hypothesis is that they are a subspecies of the more widespread Asian elephant, from which they differ because they are about half a meter shorter (the pygmy elephant reaches a maximum height of 2.5 meters), have a diminutive trunk and large ears, and are generally of a more docile character.

On an ordinary day, they travel one or two kilometers in search of food, eating about 200 kilos of grass, palms, and bananas. But there is an increasing shortage of food because of the spread of villages, the construction of new roads, the creation of new plantations, so that now the animals sometimes have to cover three times their normal daily distance to find enough to eat.

Conflicts with human beings break out when the pygmy elephant encroaches on the palm orchards to eat the fruits of the plants, which are used for a vast variety of products from cooking oil to cosmetics.

The oil palm is one of the main resources for the export sector: in Malaysia, there are 4.3 million hectares planted with palm trees, and in Sabah alone, one of the 13 states of the country, there are 1.4 million. In 2008, the palm oil business amounted to 17.64 billion U.S. dollars.

"Human-elephant conflicts occur daily around the Kinabatangan plantations," says Raymond Alfred of the WWF. In some places, the animals are shot or poisoned. "We still need long term solutions," Alfred says.


Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent | February 28, 2009

Article from: The Australian

CHOIRY, an Indonesian illegal logger in his 20s, was carrying a load of timber with a workmate when the tiger struck. He never stood a chance.

As dozens of workmates scattered, some running blindly through the Sumatran forest, others scurrying up the very trees they were busy felling - the fully grown female killed him with a single blow, then calmly dragged his body into a secluded patch.

Over the next 24 hours, his terrified friends watched from the treetops as she ripped Choiry to shreds and devoured the pieces. "They stayed there until the following afternoon; they were too frightened to come down," said Didy Wurjanto, the senior government wildlife protection official in Jambi province, southern Sumatra.

Choiry's death a week ago was merely the latest in what conservationists fear could mark the final blood-spattered days of si raja hutan - the king of the forest, as Indonesians know the majestic creature.

Six farmers and loggers, as well as four cubs from a total estimated wild Sumatran tiger population of less than 250, have been killed in the past month in the island's Jambi and Riau provinces.

A day before Choiry's gruesome end, a father and son, also collecting timber in the Jambi forests, were killed by another tiger; the father, having run to a nearby river in an attempt to escape his son's fate, was caught and fatally mauled.

The Sumatran tiger is the only remaining species of three once native to Indonesia. Former dictator Suharto is said to have shot the last remaining Javan tiger sometime early in his 32-year rule. And the Bali tiger officially became extinct in the first half of the 20th century.

Rapid deforestation - the issue Indonesia is most trying to convince the world it is addressing in response to climate change - is largely to blame, with habitat loss having created a "crisis situation", according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Sumatra's elephants face a similar fate to its tigers, as do its orang-utans and those in neighbouring Kalimantan, all thanks to recent rocketing demand for palm oil for everything from cosmetics to biscuits to biofuels.

But an irony of the radical land use change has been that with plummeting commodity prices has come ruin for many of the small-scale farmers who invested heavily in palm oil.

Not only have they contributed to the forest destruction that is driving the wild animal attacks, but growing debt is now said to be behind sharply rising mental health problems and an increase in suicides.,25197,25115860-30417,00.html

Zoo opening new exhibit to members

The latest addition to Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is opening to members this weekend, and it's got a couple of really big lizards. Asian Bamboo Gardens and the komodo dragon exhibit won't open to the public until March 6, and we'll have more info on it next week.

But it opens to zoo members Saturday and Sunday, so here's a brief look at what's there:

- Two komodo dragons. One is 6 years old and 7 feet long, the other is 16 years old and 10 feet long. The larger one is just about full grown. They're both males and won't be on display in the same space at the same time.

- The Asian garden will have more than 100 plant varieties, but the emphasis will be on bamboo.

- There will also be lotus and koi ponds, a stream and waterfall.

The zoo opens each day at 9 a.m., but the members' preview won't begin until 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, it'll close until the grand opening ceremony at 10 a.m. March 6.

The exhibit was built at a cost of $4 million, and is the first phase of what could be the zoo's most ambitious project yet. Called Monsoon Asia, it is eventually planned to have tigers, sun bears and orangutans. But the full project has a price tag of $25 million to $30 million and will be built as the money is raised.

Indonesia still on radar of Malaysian planters

Friday February 27, 2009


It remains the choice location for oil palm cultivation

PETALING JAYA: The current low crude palm oil (CPO) prices and global economic slowdown will not hinder most Malaysian plantation companies from acquiring additional green fields or existing oil palm plantations in Indonesia.

Despite the constant “disruptive” changes in the terms and regulations set by authorities in various provinces, Indonesia will remain on the radar of most local planters as the choice location for oil palm cultivation.

Malaysian Estate Owners Association president Boon Weng Siew told StarBiz the success of oil palm ventures in Indonesia depends on the ability of local plantation companies to secure good Indonesian partners.

“Having a strong long-term partnership is vital as proved by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) and Sime Darby Bhd, which are among the local pioneers with huge tracts of oil palm plantation in Indonesia,” he added.

Currently, it is believed that 50% of Indonesia’s oil palm plantations are controlled by over 50 Malaysian companies with their plantations concentrated in Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Among others, United Plantations Bhd, Asiatic Development Bhd, IJM Plantations Bhd and IOI Corp Bhd have also invested massively in oil palm plantation operations in Indonesia (See table).

KLK chief executive officer Datuk Lee Oi Hian said in the group’s 2008 annual report that 32,833ha or 76% of the group’s immature oil palm are in Indonesia. “The key criteria to expand in Indonesia are choice location, terrain and soil coupled with new planting and proper execution,” he added.

IJM Plantations managing director Velayuthan Tan also said recently the group aimed to embark on organic growth strategy through expansion in new hectarage in Indonesia.

IJM Plantations will jointly develop 33,000ha in East Kalimantan for oil palm cultivation with Indonesian parties – marking its first foray overseas.

While the interest among planters, especially those with huge cashpile, remains intact on Indonesia, there have been incidents where local planters like Kulim (M) Bhd and Tradewinds Bhd decided to pull out from Indonesia’s oil palm scene.

In mid-2007, Kulim decided to sell its entire 63,260ha plantations in Kalimantan developed since 1996 for a cool RM430mil.

Kulim managing director Ahamad Mohamad was quoted then as saying the Indonesian operation was becoming increasingly challenging to operate. “Returns on investments have not been as encouraging as our estates in Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and the Solomons,” he said.

CIMB Research regional analyst Ivy Ng said: “The investment risk appetites in Indonesia differ from one company to another.”

She concurs that having good Indonesian partners is important to ensure long-term success for Malaysian planters.

“Limited agriculture land in Malaysia will continue to make Indonesia attractive to local planters who are constantly on the lookout to expand their plantation land bank,” she added.

Industry analysts said the total planted area of oil palm plantation concessions in Indonesia would reach seven million hectares with an average CPO production estimated at 19.5 million tonnes by 2010.

Indonesia has taken over Malaysia’s spot as the world’s largest palm oil producer since late 2006 – thanks to the active huge investments in oil palm cultivation by Malaysian companies over the past five years.

Together, Indonesia and Malaysia control almost 90% of the world’s palm oil production.

Wilmar net profit up 60%

Wilmar net profit up 60%

By Goh Eng Yeow The Straits Times, Singapore

PLANTATION giant Wilmar International on Friday reported a 59.7 per cent jump in its fourth quarter profit to US$373. million, even though revenues fell 10.4 per cent to US$5.83 billion.

A large 28.5 per cent drop in selling costs to US$229.3 million contributed to the sharp rise in profit. Operating costs also fell 54 per cent to US$41.5 million.

Wilmar, which owns oil palm plantations and runs milling, crushing, refining and processing plants in Indonesia and Malaysia, is cautiously optimistic about its near-term prospects.

Wilmar's Chief Executive Officer Kuok Khoon Hong said the company is keen on acquiring assets and has about US$1 billion available for mergers and acquisitions.

Wilmar had about US$2.5 billion in cash at the end of December and about US$1 billion could be used for buying plantations, ships or food companies, Kuok told Reuters on the sidelines of the firm's results briefing on Friday.

'Dry bulk ships are very cheap now,' he said.

The firm is declaring a final dividend of 4.5 cents, which brings its total payout for the year to 7.3 cents.

Wilmar rose as much as 3.7 per cent to S$2.82, and traded at S$2.77 at 10.17 am in Singapore on Friday.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

German group protests Indonesian peatland policy

By Susanne Retka Schill

Biodiesel Web exclusive posted Feb. 25, 2009,

German oilseed and biodiesel promoter, Union for Promoting Oilseeds and Proteinplants (UFOP), is criticizing Indonesia’s decision to drop its moratorium on palm oil production in peat areas and calling for stepped up efforts to certify sustainable biofuels.

“UFOP demands that internationally agreed and accepted certification systems be established as quickly as possible to ensure, at least, by identifying the origin of raw materials, the production of biomass for conversion to biofuel does not add to the release of greenhouse gases in excess of what is normal,” the UFOP said in a statement. “The decision of the Indonesian government confirms that the displacement effects can obviously not be controlled by certification systems. Therefore, talks between the EU and producing countries, such as Indonesia, on the use of land for the production of raw materials should start now.”

In protesting the Indonesia policy change, UFOP recalled the intense debate between the European Council and Parliament over the draining of peatlands prior to adopting the new Renewable Energy Directive. Peatland conversion is considered a prime source of carbon emissions, both in tropical regions where peatlands are drained for oil palm plantings and in Europe where peat soils are drained for farming.

UFOP also called for the petroleum industry as the largest users of biodiesel for blending to recognize its responsibility to ensure only sustainably produced biomass is the basis for biodiesel or hydrogenated vegetable oils used in co-refining. “UFOP is convinced that it cannot be tolerated that raw materials are produced by sustainable methods meeting high ecological and social standards in the European Union whereas exporting countries such as Indonesia are systematically undermining these efforts already now,” the promotional council said. “UFOP calls upon the petrol industry to give preference to indigenous or European Union produced biomass, such as rape seed, because this ensures that biofuels from sustainable biomass production are used.”