October 1, 2018

Palm oil moratorium puts spotlight on existing permit

( - The enactment of President Joko Widodo's moratorium on the expansion of new palm oil plantations in areas with good forest cover (Sep 19) has led to mounting expectation that the deforestation of areas with good forest cover in existing concessions will be stopped.

In this regard, one concession that is appropriate to be evaluated is PT PSM, a 2013 granted palm oil concession sold by Genting Plantations (GenP) which lies in West Kalimantan’s Ketapang regency and is inhabited by the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan.

GenP made a public promise to protect this concession, which predominantly consists of high carbon stock (HCS) forests, but instead sold it for millions of dollars with the result that it is now being extensively cleared.

"The sold GenP concession is one of the existing palm oil concessions that technically meets the criteria to be evaluated, with reference to the content of the President's palm oil expansion moratorium," said Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of forestry-based research NGO Greenomics Indonesia in Jakarta (Sep 27).

The time-series Planet Explorer images below, presented by Greenomics which has been continually observing this case, portray the level of deforestation in one of the PT PSM concession’s blocks with good forest cover. 

Furthermore, in another block within the palm oil concession, there is also ongoing clearing of sections of good forest cover. This is tantamount to evicting the area's Bornean orangutans. 

The following time-series images, also from Greenomics, depict the degree of deforestation of good forest cover in this block over the course of a year from last September to this September.

Making matters even worse, the habitat of the Bornean orangutan in a much larger block in the PT PSM concession is also being relentlessly razed to the ground.

The vast extent of the logging of the Bornean orangutan’s habitat is further highlighted in the time-series satellite images from Greenomics below. After being logged, these HCS areas continue to be cleared for palm oil expansion.

Changes in the level of good forest cover in the three blocks due to deforestation and logging practices need to be addressed as part of the new palm oil expansion moratorium. 

More specifically, significant remaining swathes of good forest cover in the PT PSM concession, shown by Greenomics in the following satellite images, should be saved from deforestation for palm oil expansion by the new moratorium. 

Another component of the palm oil expansion moratorium is the evaluation of palm oil permit trading. In this respect, the sale of PT PSM’s palm oil permit by GenP to its partner PT BHD certainly deserves to be evaluated.

Meanwhile, as previously reported by (Aug 1), major global buyers and traders which are members of both The Forest Trust (TFT) and the RSPO - such as Nestle, Cargill, Mars, ADM Global, Wilmar and Asian Agri / Apical - continue to source palm oil from PT BHD, the parent company of PT PSM.

Likewise, Unilever and PepsiCo, which are members of the RSPO but not TFT, also continue to purchase palm oil from this supplier which is engaged in the destruction of the Bornean orangutan’s habitat.

President Joko Widodo’s palm oil expansion moratorium, according to Greenomics, is a clear representation of the President’s efforts to end the ongoing deforestation of areas with good forest cover for the purpose of palm oil plantation expansion.