Is Fonterra fuelling Indonesia’s rainforest fires?

Press release - November 9, 2015
Greenpeace is challenging New Zealand’s biggest company, Fonterra, to prove that its massive use of palm products is not fuelling the enormous fires raging across Indonesia.

Millions of people across South East Asia are facing a catastrophic smog problem due to the fires, which are caused by the systematic destruction of rainforests and peatlands by the relentless clearing of land for palm plantations.

Described as the biggest environmental crime of the 21st century, the fires are also rapidly destroying the habitat of a third of the world’s wild orangutans and other endangered species.

Indonesia is now on track to release more carbon dioxide this year than the entire United Kingdom; and in just three weeks, the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.

Greenpeace New Zealand’s Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says it’s important for New Zealanders that Fonterra urgently provides credible evidence that its massive use of palm products to feed dairy cows is not contributing to the fires.

“New Zealand is the single biggest importer of Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) in the world. Almost one-third of the global trade in palm kernel is bought by New Zealand, mostly for the dairy industry,” he says.

Decades of rampant expansion by the plantation industry in Indonesia has lead to out of control fires in and around their plantations.

“Fonterra buying huge volumes of PKE from these plantations to feed the expansion of industrial dairying in New Zealand clearly links them to the fires, destruction of rainforests and peatland, massive greenhouse gas emissions, and unprecedented human suffering as a result of the smog from the fires,” Dr Norman says.

“If this is the case, we’re complicit in the biggest environmental crime of this century.

Fonterra has recently admitted that the use of PKE is affecting their image as a grass-fed dairy supplier, so now is the time to stop using this unsustainable product and move to a cleaner, smarter way of dairying.”

Last Thursday, Dr Norman wrote a letter to Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the dairy giant’s palm kernel supply chain.

Greenpeace then received a letter written on behalf of Spierings, declining the invitation, citing too short notice. It suggested a meeting with a different colleague instead. It's also offered claims of sustainable sourcing, which Dr Norman says are simply not credible.  

Greenpeace is insisting on meeting Spierings himself, given the seriousness of the situation.

“We’re talking about devastation of enormous scale - something that’s been described as one of the worst environmental disasters in history,” says Dr Norman. “It’s imperative that Fonterra front up and prove that New Zealand has not been complicit in fuelling these fires.”

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