Indonesia finds one-fifth of palm oil plantations are illegal

Indonesian rangers cut down illegal palm oil trees in the protected Leuser Ecosystem rainforest in Aceh province, Indonesia, in January 2019. Picture: AFP
Bloomberg | 10 October 2019

Indonesia Finds One-Fifth of Palm Oil Plantations Are Illegal

By Eko Listiyorini and Yoga Rusmana

- About 19% of Indonesia’s palm oil plantations are unlicensed
- Country plans to take back unplanted palm oil concessions

Indonesia is trying to clamp down on illegal palm oil plantations by first identifying the perpetrators.

A government investigation found that 3.1 million hectares, or about 19% of the country’s total oil palm plantations, are operating without permits in forest areas. Authorities are in the process of identifying the owners of the unlicensed plantations and are seeking legal advice on how to deal with them, according to an official at Indonesia’s ministry of economic affairs.

The country is also formulating regulations that will allow the government to rescind permits for unplanted concessions. Land with good tree coverage will be turned into forest areas to help with climate change, said Prabianto Mukti Wibowo, assistant deputy for forestry management at Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The latest finding comes after the state auditor, known as BPK, reported that about 81% of the country’s palm plantations broke various state regulations, including operating in conservation and peatland areas as well as non-compliance with Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil standards.

Indonesia has halted applications for 1.6 million hectares of new palm plantations since the government issued a moratorium on expanding the area last year, Wibowo said. President Joko Widodo issued a decree in September 2018 to suspend permits for new palm oil plantations for 3 years.

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