Wednesday 19 September: Over one a half million rugby fields of Indonesian rainforest were destroyed between 2015 and 2017.
That’s just one of the harrowing statistics included in a devastating new investigative report released today by Greenpeace International.
The report, Final Countdown, documents extensive deforestation and human rights abuses by 25 major palm oil producers.
Of the 25 palm oil producers investigated, Fonterra’s sole supplier of Palm Kernel Expeller (PKE) Wilmar, was found to be buying from 18 of them.
"Our investigation shows that the palm products Wilmar trades are still contaminated with rainforest destruction. " says Gen Toop, Greenpeace’s sustainable agriculture spokesperson.
New Zealand is the biggest importer of PKE in the world and imports continue to rise. PKE is a by-product of the palm oil industry that is used in NZ as a supplementary feed for dairy cows.
"Indonesia’s rainforests are the lungs of our planet, they are one of our strongest defences against climate change, they are a source of life for Indigenous People, and incredible species like the orangutan," says Toop.
"Through continuing to buy PKE from Wilmar, Fonterra and NZ’s dairy industry are fuelling rainforest destruction, forest fires and human rights abuses across Indonesia."
In late 2016 Fonterra committed to using only responsible palm oil products throughout its global supply chains.
"Fonterra made promises years ago to get deforestation and human rights abuses out of its supply chain. But this report clearly shows they are failing. The time has come for Fonterra to drop PKE altogether," says Toop.
The report found that together the 25 palm producers have cleared over 130,000 ha of rainforest since the end of 2015. It is also the most comprehensive assessment of deforestation in Papua, Indonesia.
"Papua is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, and its forests had until recently been spared the destruction happening elsewhere in Indonesia. But now the palm industry is moving in and clearing forest on Papua at an alarming rate," says Toop.
In addition to deforestation, the 25 individual cases in the report include evidence of exploitation and social conflicts, illegal deforestation and forest fires linked to land clearance.
"New Zealand prides itself in being a country that cares for the environment and respects human rights. But the dairy industry’s ongoing use of PKE is completely undermining that."
The use of PKE has also been one of the main drivers of dairy intensification in New Zealand which has seen an explosion in cow numbers from 3.84 million in 1994 to 6.47 million in 2017.
"Using imported animal feed fuels a high-input industrial model of dairy farming that’s destroying our rivers and warming our climate. We simply do not need to import any kind of animal feed to NZ, let alone dirty PKE."
"Fonterra needs to drop PKE so that the dairy industry can re-focus onto pasture based dairying and farm fewer cows. These are the first steps towards transforming NZ's dairy industry to regenerative farming which is the direction it sorely need to be going."
1.6m ha lost between 2015 and 2017 divided by rugby field 1.0008 ha.