Fonterra implicated in rainforest destruction

Feature story - August 22, 2009
A Greenpeace investigation has revealed that the iconic New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra is implicated in Indonesian and Malaysian rainforest destruction, dead orangutans and driving global greenhouse gas emissions.

Draining peatland releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the world's atmosphere and is the main reason Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the US.

By encouraging the use of palm-based animal feed from cleared rainforests, and by pushing an intensive industrial farming model in New Zealand, Fonterra is actively contributing to one of the world's largest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The iconic New Zealand dairy giant is pushing it's farmers to use hundreds of thousands of tonnes of palm-based animal feed from South-East Asia's palm oil plantations planted on land that was, until recently, covered by rainforest.

Fonterra's half-ownership of a company called RD1, a major importer of Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) for animal feed, and an industry model which is driving New Zealand farmers to an ever more intensive use of animal feeds such as PKE. Fonterra is helping to fuel the logging of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests and driving up New Zealand's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

A Greenpeace investigation

Download PDFA small team from Greenpeace New Zealand have spent the past months delving further into Fonterra's climate crimes.

Much is known about the destructive palm oil industry but little focus has been directed on another product of palm - palm kernel animal feed (technically known as palm kernel expeller or PKE). PKE is made from the kernel of the fruit that comes from the palm plant.

Last year New Zealand imported a whopping one quarter of the world's PKE production - a figure confirmed by the United States Department of Agriculture. For such a small country it's shocking to learn that we have such a major role in sourcing this destructively produced animal feed.

Figures also show that in the last decade our imports have grown 2700 per cent from 400 tonnes to over 1.1 million tonnes. The reason? To feed New Zealand's growing dairy herd.

While Fonterra farmers (95 per cent of farms in New Zealand are part of the Fonterra cooperative) are using this feed to boost production, the cooperative is also involved in the PKE supply chain through its half owned RD1 subsidiary. RD1 has close links with Wilmar International - one of the world's biggest rainforest destroyers. The palm-based animal feed that RD1 imports comes exclusively from Wilmar.

Wilmar has been the at centre of much attention for its part in illegal forest destruction, illegal fires on carbon rich peatlands, destruction of endangered animal habitat and creating social conflict by illegally taking community lands.

It owns over 500,000 hectares of land - mainly in Indonesia and the majority of this is yet to be cleared for palm plantations.

On the ground in Indonesia

We wanted to show New Zealanders the impact Wilmar, RD1 and Fonterra are having in Indonesia. We wanted to do it together with independent voices, so we travelled to Sumatra with an independent journalist and a New Zealand farmer, Max Purnell.

Our journey covered many hundreds of kilometres from the city of Jambi into the depths of one of the few remaining forest parks where the roads are kept in a state of disrepair to keep the logging trucks out. Here we saw endangered orangutan - in cages as they are rehabilitated to go back into the wild. All the orangutan we saw were orphaned due to the industrial palm expansion into their forest homes.

Suzette JacksonThe rehabilitation director told us there was only a two year window in which to save what little forest habitat remained in Sumatra. It was a sobering thought for us all. And at a vantage point looking over 50,000 hectares of pristine rainforest which could be logged as early as next year Max echoed our thoughts when he declared "it's just not right."

From the jungle we journeyed for hours, where palm plantations stretched for as far as the eye could see. We met with two local leaders from the village of Kuala Mulia. Their lands were taken by the Indonesian Government, cleared, burnt and about to be planted in palm. The company responsible - Duta Palma which supplies palm to Wilmar. We stood on their burnt ground as they told us the future looked bleak as they no longer had land on which to survive.

The sadness of this experience left us silent as we continued on to North Sumatra. Here we visited a formerly owned Wilmar palm concession. Once the mighty Sumatran tiger roamed over the land where we stood - but no more. All that was left was charred, burnt land, ancient tree stumps and palm - always palm.

Indonesia's rainforests are being destroyed faster than any other country in the world. It has already lost 72 per cent of its large intact ancient forests. Forest destruction, fires lit for clearing land for palm plantations and the conversion of carbon rich peatlands are major contributors to climate change.

Indigenous leader Raji Anis stands on his land once owned by three neighbouring villages. The land was taken from them by a palm company then cleared and burnt to plant palm. (C) GREENPEACE / Oka Budhi .

As a result, recent estimates rank Indonesia as the third largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet after China and the US.

Our trip was confronting. The message we brought home was simple; New Zealand and Fonterra must stop importing this destructive product.

New Zealand should be helping to protect Indonesia's remaining forests not destroying them.

Related material

The fonterra connection (PDF)

Take action!!

Send a message to Prime Minister John Key asking him to act decisively to make Fonterra stop palm kernel expeller from being imported and fed to New Zealand dairy cows.

Sustain us

We could not afford to do any of this without you! In order to continue our work across the world to save the climate - please give what you can.

Categories