The use of palm kernel expeller (PKE) by New Zealand’s intensive dairying industry is linked to the destruction of peatland and rainforests, which is driving the climate crisis.
A new Greenpeace International report has found evidence of systematic violations by the Indonesian Government regarding plantation and forest release permits in the Papua region. The report also finds that clearing forest for palm plantations in the Papua area could release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, undoing previous climate action.
New Zealand is the world’s biggest importer of palm kernel expeller - a product of the palm industry used as supplementary feed for New Zealand’s 6.5 million dairy cows.
In 2018, another Greenpeace investigation found that Fonterra’s key supplier of PKE, Wilmar International, has been linked with the mass destruction of rainforest in Papua, Indonesia. In 2020, Fonterra handed over its half of PKE-importing business Agrifeeds to Wilmar International.
Greenpeace Aotearoa campaigner Amanda Larsson says the dairy industry’s continued use of PKE is one of myriad ways that intensive dairying is fuelling the climate crisis.
"Right now, dairying is New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter. We’ve got methane from 6.5 million cows, nitrous oxide from cows and synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, and carbon from the coal used to process milk," says Larsson.
"On top of all that, the dairy industry’s use of PKE supports destructive players in the palm industry that have been linked to deforestation and peatland destruction.
"This kind of deforestation and peatland destruction displaces Indigenous people and local communities, kills wildlife and causes fires that create a toxic haze and endanger millions of lives."
The Greenpeace International report details land concessions marked for clearance in Papua that hold an estimated 71.2 million tonnes of forest carbon.
If released through deforestation, Greenpeace said this would make it almost impossible for Indonesia to meet its commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement.
"The polluting industries causing the climate crisis are putting our wellbeing at risk. We’re seeing more storms, floods and droughts that are threatening coastal communities, food security and health," says Larsson.
"It doesn’t have to be this way. We can turn the farming sector from being Aotearoa’s biggest polluter into one of our best solutions for tackling climate change and restoring nature."
Greenpeace Aotearoa is calling on the Ardern Government to phase out imported feed like PKE, and support farmers to shift to regenerative organic farming.
Larsson says, "Across Aotearoa, there are farmers who are switching to regenerative organic farming, which works with nature to rebuild soil, clean up waterways, bring back wildlife and store carbon as they grow great food.
"But the pressures of intensive dairying are constraining farmers’ ability to take their farms in the direction many of them want to. The Government must level the playing field by supporting farmers to make the switch and putting in rules to incentive good practice. That means reducing cow numbers, working within the limits of the land, and nurturing the soil so there’s less reliance on inputs like PKE."