2016-03-31

Wilmar and Musim Mas accused of just delivering "talks"


JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - The Mopoli Raya Group - ex-supplier to Wilmar International and Musim Mas - has accused the two palm oil giants of contributing nothing besides mere "talks" over the eight months since Mopoli Raya committed to stop the deforestation of high carbon stock (HCS) forests in its concession in an effort to protect these forests. This accusation has come as a great surprise to many observers.

The Mopoli Raya Group ended its deforestation practices after the two IPOP signatories suspended their purchases from Mopoli Raya, as it became clear that the company was continuing to clear HCS forests located in its concession in the Leuser Ecosystem, which plays host to the Sumatran elephant.

After the completion of an HCS forest assessment by an international consultant in the early months of this year, the areas that had been mapped as containing HCS forests were instead encroached upon by third parties using chainsaws and burning, in effect further destroying the Sumatran elephant habitat.

All of this has been disclosed in a new report published by Greenomics Indonesia, which criticizes Wilmar and Musim Mas for taking a hands-off approach to the protection of the high carbon stock forests - home to the Sumatran elephant - situated in the Mopoli Raya Group's palm oil concession.

“Wilmar requested that we sign a letter of sustainability commitment in line with its policy. However, we were averse to signing it. Why would we want to sign it? Wilmar has shown itself only to be interested in talks over the eight months from when we stopped deforestation. Signing such a letter would have been of no benefit to us. Those eight months of inaction are proof enough,” Sabri Basyah, member of the Mopoli Raya Group’s Board of Commissioners, told foresthints.news on Wednesday (Mar 30).

With respect to the Greenomics report, Wilmar simply replied to an e-mail from foresthints.news by saying, “Our apologies for missing the deadline, but we have no comment on the report in question.” This was more specifically a reference to a deadline extension Wilmar had been given to respond to the report.

Meanwhile, the response given to foresthints.news by the Musim Mas Group via Carolyn Lim, the group’s Corporate Communications Manager, on Wednesday (Mar 30), failed to satisfactorily address the substance of the Greenomics report and the issues it raised.

In essence, the company’s response was not far removed from the press statement issued on its website on 30 June 2015.

However, Musim Mas did say that, “IPOP has commissioned Daemeter to provide a strategic framework for solutions to protect the Leuser Ecosystem.” Furthermore, the group also declared that it was working together with TFT on capacity building, training workshops and supply chain linkages with other palm oil players.

Nonetheless, foresthints.news received the following response, upon seeking confirmation regarding these two claims, from the Mopoli Raya Group.

“We know nothing about what Musim Mas is currently working on. We are not involved in any way whatsoever. We have no idea whether it’s related to our concession or not. That’s how it is,” Sabri said.

Wilmar and Musim Mas must step up

“Left unchecked, palm oil expansion will lead to the further loss of lowland rainforests in the Leuser Ecosystem, including critical habitat areas for the Sumatran elephant controlled by Mopoli Raya,” said Gemma Tillack, Agribusiness Campaign Director for the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), in response to a question on the issue from foresthints.news on Wednesday (Mar 30).

Gemma stressed that both Wilmar and Musim Mas must step up their efforts to drive the transformation of the palm oil sector in Aceh by providing incentives for suppliers, including smallholders, to halt further expansion into the Leuser Ecosystem.

“The time for collective action is now. If a new pathway for development in Aceh - which has the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem at its core - is not created, millions of Acehnese people will continue to see their land stolen, forests degraded, their water sources and air polluted, and their sources of livelihood destroyed,” Gemma cautioned ominously.