Palm Kernel Briefing

Publication - September 15, 2009
"Why are Greenpeace targeting palm kernel expeller (PKE) when all you have to do is walk into a supermarket and look at the ingredients list on products - surely palm oil is worse?"

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Executive summary:

New Zealand imported 22,293 tonnes of palm oil in 2008 from Malaysia - that was 0.1% of the world's total supply. New Zealand imported 1,100,000 tonnes of PKE in that same year - 24% of the world's total supply. You do the maths.

Fonterra's half owned subsidiary RD1 joined forces with Wilmar in a joint venture. Wilmar grows palm, and as a result is one of the world's biggest rainforest destroyers. A quarter of the world's supply of PKE comes into New Zealand mainly to feed cows on Fonterra owned dairy farms. The import of PKE is contributing directly to the destruction of rainforest - the habitat for so many unique and endangered species, and the home to millions of indigenous people.

Under questioning from the Green Party in Parliament, Finance Minister Bill English (standing in for John Key) stated with regards to the impact of palm kernel expeller on rainforest destruction: "Of course, it has some impact; the Government does not deny that."

"But it is only 1% of what we feed to our cows"

Exactly, so stop importing it now and use the surplus maize crop that is available here in New Zealand from New Zealand maize farmers during times of drought. In the longer term New Zealand needs to return to pasture based dairy as we have done for decades before. Fonterra's intensification of dairy farming is changing our farming from pastoral to industrial and in the process fuelling rainforest destruction, increasing greenhouse gas emissions here and abroad, putting pressure on the health of our land and threatening our clean, green reputation. There are a significant number of dairy farmers who are refusing to use PKE because of concerns - good on them and Fonterra's business executives need to follow those farmers' lead.

"Greenpeace is damaging our clean, green 100% pure brand."

Fonterra has known that PKE causes rainforest destruction for at least a year - by failing to act to stop the imports they are the ones that are putting our clean, green nation at risk. Further our lack of meaningful climate policy will also damage our 100% pure brand. As nations gather in Copenhagen in December offering commitments to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 30%, 35%, or 40% and New Zealand begs to be allowed special exemption and maybe try to reduce our emissions by 10 -20%.

"All the PKE imported into New Zealand is sustainable"

Sorry, just not true. In fact, the World Bank has just pulled all funding of Wilmar and the rest of the palm oil industry because of their concerns about the lack of environmental and social sustainability of the industry.

The head of Fonterra's RD1 was exposed on Radio National as not knowing whether rainforest had been cleared for the plantations supplying RD1. He couldn't assure New Zealanders that their trade was sustainable. According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) secretary-general Dr Vengeta Rao "very little" of the palm kernel expeller that entered New Zealand would have been certified as sustainable.

"Palm Kernel is just a by-product of a by-product"

Palm kernel expeller is not a waste by-product - it is a lucrative economic part of the destructive palm oil business. The three main end products of the palm plantation business are Crude Palm Oil (for food), Palm Kernel Oil (for cosmetics, etc) and Palm Kernel Expeller (used for animal feed).

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board palm kernel expeller "is also an important product from the oil palm industry that generate[s] substantial export earnings for Malaysia."

Last year New Zealand spent over 300 million dollars on PKE. That money went into palm oil companies' profits to be spent on clearing more rainforest.