Indonesia to use law on jobs to deal with palm oil production

JAKARTA • Indonesia will use existing laws in a job creation Bill passed last year to deal with issues around sustainable palm oil production, a senior official said yesterday, after a moratorium on new plantation permits recently ended.

In 2018, the world's top palm oil producer launched the moratorium to try to stop deforestation and improve governance in the industry, while seeking to boost output from existing cultivated areas. The moratorium ended on Sept 19, with no indication of an extension, raising concerns by environmentalists who say Indonesia risks losing more large tracts of forest to plantation expansion.

"Let's just run it according to the existing regulations," Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture Musdhalifah Machmud told a virtual conference. One issue was that some plantations which existed even before the moratorium continued to operate without a permit because they were located within a designated forest area.

"We haven't been able to overcome all of these conditions... let's propose again what regulations might be able to overcome further problems," she said.

The Indonesian government passed the so-called job creation "omnibus" law last year which revised over 70 existing laws, in an attempt to cut red tape, spur investment and boost labour market competitiveness. While the law does not include a clause to stop the issuing of new palm oil plantation permits, it does specify a 100,000ha limit for a new palm oil plantation.

The law does not, however, place a limit on how many new plantations are allowed per year. Green groups say the omnibus law favours business interests at the expense of the environment and labour.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2021, with the headline 'Indonesia to use law on jobs to deal with palm oil production'. Subscribe