Haze update: Palm oil companies listed in Singapore deny using fire to clear land

Palm oil companies listed here have denied that they are using slash-and-burn practices on their plantations in Indonesia.

The land-clearing technique is seen as a key cause of the haze crisis now engulfing Singapore and Malaysia, but the companies say they opt for a mechanical approach that includes using excavators and bulldozers.

Some companies added that they monitor contractors and sub-contractors to ensure they comply with the no-burn policy as well.

Singapore-listed First Resources, which has over 158,000ha of oil palm plantations, said yesterday that it adopts a zero-burning policy for new plantings and uses mechanical methods to clear land.

Its plantations are mostly in Riau, as well as East and West Kalimantan. "We are supported by contractors who are contractually bound to comply with the group's zero-burning policy," said a spokesman.

Indofood Agri Resources, with more than 230,000ha of oil palm plantations, mostly in Sumatra, and over 20,000ha of rubber trees, said sustainable agriculture is at the core of all its operations.

"I can confirm that IndoAgri has a zero-burning policy," chief executive Mark Wakeford said yesterday.

Wilmar International and Golden Agri-Resources, the two largest palm oil companies listed here by market value, also emphasised their zero-burning policies in statements to The Straits Times on Tuesday. Wilmar's plantations are in Sumatra, West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

Golden Agri, with a planted area of about 464,000ha across Indonesia, added yesterday that it monitors its processes stringently to ensure its contractors comply.

United States commodities giant Cargill, which is privately held, said it has a no-burn policy, and added that there are no hot spots or fires at its oil palm plantations in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan, which together cover close to 55,000ha.

It added that it uses heavy equipment like excavators to clear the land, with Cargill employees overseeing the entire process.

Environmental groups noted that while companies may have no-burn policies, they also buy palm oil from third-party suppliers. "What they need to do is check whether the third-party suppliers are involved in the burning or not," said Mr Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace's forest campaign in Indonesia.

Dr John Payne, executive director of the Borneo Rhino Alliance, said palm oil companies and those in other sectors need to know how their raw material suppliers are behaving.



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