Tuesday 27 October 2015

Fonterra and the greatest ecological disaster on the planet

"A quarter of the world's supply of PKE comes into New Zealand mainly to feed cows on Fonterra owned dairy farms. The import of PKE is contributing directly to the destruction of rainforest - the habitat for so many unique and endangered species, and the home to millions of indigenous people"
---Greenpeace NZ

New Zealand’s Fonterra deeply implicated in Indonesian forest fires

There is no part of the New Zealand media that will go beyond reporting edited highlights of the bare facts about the devastating fires that are a result of the clearing of peat lands and slash-and-burn of Indonesian rain forests, largely to produce palm oil.

They certainly won’t want you to know that Fonterra is deeply involved in the main factor that is driving deforestation, the destruction of habitat for endangered orangutangs – and, now, the lighting of fires which are driven by a combination of the most serious el-Nino ever and abrupt climate change.

These fires produce more greenhouse gas than all the combined emissions from the United States of America.

And New Zealand’s contribution?

New Zealand imported 22,293 tonnes of palm oil in 2008 from Malaysia - that was 0.1% of the world's total supply. New Zealand imported 1,100,000 tonnes of PKE in that same year - 24% of the world's total supply”

PKE is palm kernel expeller which is used as a supplementary feed for our cattle that are touted as grass-feп.

So in additon to “grass-fed” milk being tainted New Zealand by using ONE-QUARTER of the world’s supply of PKE Fonterra is making a significant contribution towards the destruction of rain forests in SE Asia and now to the world’s greatest ecological disaster.

To introduce the subject here is an advertisement made by Greenpeace NZ back in 2010 to illustrate the situation

And here is some background on the fires. Try in vain to find this in New Zealand media.

The highlighting is my own.

Haze has caused havoc, with schools in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia shut down, flights grounded and events cancelled

Raging forest fires across Indonesia are thought to be responsible for up to half a million cases of respiratory infections, with the resultant haze covering parts of Malaysia and Singapore now being described as a “crime against humanity”.

Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been alight for more than two months as a result of slash and burn – the fastest and quickest way to clear land for new plantations.

Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and fires are frequently intentionally lit to clear the land with the resulting haze an annual headache.

But this year a prolonged dry season and the impact of El Niño have made the situation far worse, with one estimate that daily emissions from the fires have surpassed the average daily emissions of the entire US economy.

The fires have caused the air to turn a toxic sepia colour in the worst hit areas of Sumatra and Kalimantan, where levels of the Pollutant Standard Index (PSI) have pushed toward 2,000. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous.

Endangered wildlife such as orangutans have also been forced to flee the forests because of the fires.

Six Indonesian provinces have declared a state of emergency.

Across the region Indonesia’s haze crisis has been causing havoc – schools in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia have been shut down, flights have been grounded, events cancelled and Indonesian products boycotted, as millions try to avoid the intense smoke.

In the worst affected parts, on Sumatra and Kalimantan, ten people have died from haze-related illnesses and more than 500,000 cases of acute respiratory tract infections have been reported since July 1.

Commuters drive through thick haze in Tumbang Nusa, Central Kalimantan, on October 25, 2015. Indonesia has put warships on standby to evacuate people affected by acrid haze. Facebook Pinterest

Sutopo Puro Nugroho, the spokesperson for the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has acknowledged that for months 43 million people on the two islands have been inhaling toxic fumes. Yet, he admitted, the number of unrecorded cases was likely much higher.

This is a crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions,” he said. “But now is not the time to point fingers but to focus on how we can deal with this quickly.”

As the Indonesian Council of Ulema has held mass prayers for rain, the administration of President Joko Widodo has deployed 30 aircraft and 22,000 troops to fight the fires on the ground, as well as stationed several warships off Kalimantan, on standby to evacuate victims if required.

Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Japan have also sent assistance.

But environmentalists have warned that the measures, a few helicopters, water bombers and face masks, are far from sufficient.

Large parts of Indonesia have now been in a state of emergency for over a month. Why has there not been a nationally declared total fire ban advertised 24/7 on all television channels?” asked Dr. Eric Meijaard, an Indonesia-based associate professor at the University of Queensland, in a recent editorial in the Jakarta Globe.

Why has there not been a clear message: you burn — you go to jail?”

By its own calculation the fires have cost the Indonesian government more than US$30 billion, a huge blow for the country’s floundering economy and the president’s economic development agenda.

Pressure to deal with the raging fires, haze and associated emissions is mounting as Indonesia prepares to discuss its climate commitments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December.

If you have not flown over the region recently, it is truly difficult to grasp the immense scale and extreme implications of this tragic situation. Malaysia has begun evacuating citizens from Indonesia because the risks of prolonged exposure are so severe. Flights are cancelled daily as airports across the region shut down and in Singapore schools are being closed because the air quality is so bad it is a serious threat to human health. People are literally dying because they cannot breathe.

But the smoke crisis is not just a regional issue. The widespread burning of tropical rainforests and peatlands to develop pulpwood and palm oil plantations is one of the largest sources of carbon pollution occurring in the world today. It is estimated that the fires are producing more carbon pollution than the entire daily emissions of the United States

Fires have spread beyond plantations deep into primary forests and national parks, the last strongholds of the endangered apes

What follows is background information provided by Greenpeace

Palm Kernel Briefing

"Why are Greenpeace targeting palm kernel expeller (PKE) when all you have to do is walk into a supermarket and look at the ingredients list on products - surely palm oil is worse?"

Executive summary:

New Zealand imported 22,293 tonnes of palm oil in 2008 from Malaysia - that was 0.1% of the world's total supply. New Zealand imported 1,100,000 tonnes of PKE in that same year - 24% of the world's total supply. You do the maths.

Fonterra's half owned subsidiary RD1 joined forces with Wilmar in a joint venture. Wilmar grows palm, and as a result is one of the world's biggest rainforest destroyers. A quarter of the world's supply of PKE comes into New Zealand mainly to feed cows on Fonterra owned dairy farms. The import of PKE is contributing directly to the destruction of rainforest - the habitat for so many unique and endangered species, and the home to millions of indigenous people.
Under questioning from the Green Party in Parliament, Finance Minister Bill English (standing in for John Key) stated with regards to the impact of palm kernel expeller on rainforest destruction: "Of course, it has some impact; the Government does not deny that."

"But it is only 1% of what we feed to our cows"

Exactly, so stop importing it now and use the surplus maize crop that is available here in New Zealand from New Zealand maize farmers during times of drought. In the longer term New Zealand needs to return to pasture based dairy as we have done for decades before. Fonterra's intensification of dairy farming is changing our farming from pastoral to industrial and in the process fuelling rainforest destruction, increasing greenhouse gas emissions here and abroad, putting pressure on the health of our land and threatening our clean, green reputation. There are a significant number of dairy farmers who are refusing to use PKE because of concerns - good on them and Fonterra's business executives need to follow those farmers' lead.

"Greenpeace is damaging our clean, green 100% pure brand."

Fonterra has known that PKE causes rainforest destruction for at least a year - by failing to act to stop the imports they are the ones that are putting our clean, green nation at risk. Further our lack of meaningful climate policy will also damage our 100% pure brand. As nations gather in Copenhagen in December offering commitments to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 30%, 35%, or 40% and New Zealand begs to be allowed special exemption and maybe try to reduce our emissions by 10 -20%.

"All the PKE imported into New Zealand is sustainable"

Sorry, just not true. In fact, the World Bank has just pulled all funding of Wilmar and the rest of the palm oil industry because of their concerns about the lack of environmental and social sustainability of the industry.
The head of Fonterra's RD1 was exposed on Radio National as not knowing whether rainforest had been cleared for the plantations supplying RD1. He couldn't assure New Zealanders that their trade was sustainable. According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) secretary-general Dr Vengeta Rao "very little" of the palm kernel expeller that entered New Zealand would have been certified as sustainable.

"Palm Kernel is just a by-product of a by-product"

Palm kernel expeller is not a waste by-product - it is a lucrative economic part of the destructive palm oil business. The three main end products of the palm plantation business are Crude Palm Oil (for food), Palm Kernel Oil (for cosmetics, etc) and Palm Kernel Expeller (used for animal feed).
According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board palm kernel expeller "is also an important product from the oil palm industry that generate[s] substantial export earnings for Malaysia."
Last year New Zealand spent over 300 million dollars on PKE. That money went into palm oil companies' profits to be spent on clearing more rainforest

Does Fonterra support deforestation?

And this indicates how much the board room at Fonterra knows and cares. Perhaps a compulsory tour of the area of the forest fires might make a difference? These people are totally without conscience.


  1. Shocking information. I note those statistics are from 2010. Do you have more recent figures on how much PKE is imported by Fonterra now ?

  2. Isn't PKE a BY-PRoduct of the palms that have already been felled for their oil???? Stopping the importation of PKE is NOT going to change anything!! The product is NOT used primarily on Fonterra farms - the farms min NZ are 95% privately owned. If you want to have a go at somebody - have a go at the importers of the product, not Fonterra - this is absolutely NOTHING to do with them. I thought Greenpeace would have known better than to blame Fonterra.....they need to get their facts right!!

    1. Fonterra's half owned subsidiary RD1 joined forces with Wilmar in a joint venture. Wilmar grows palm, and as a result is one of the world's biggest rainforest destroyers. A quarter of the world's supply of PKE comes into New Zealand mainly to feed cows on Fonterra owned dairy farms.

      PKE costs around $17 tonne to import and gets sold for around $290 per tonne. It rips up animals guts by promoting intestinal permeability.

    2. Would you not think that having access to a market would increase the attractiveness of a product? If only 50% of your product is saleable, then you're going to be looking for a product in which you can make money from 100% of it. So, when Fonterra say "we'll take some of that PKE off your hands" the producer clearly going to be encouraged to keep producing it. This is not complicated. Nobody is saying that the NZ dairy industry is the single driver of palm industry expansion. They're just pointing that in providing a market for a by-product, Fonterra is a) implicitly endorsing the industry, and b) making it more profitable than it would otherwise be. Those are inarguable facts.

  3. We are so fucked, there is no hope for humanity whilst corporate psychopaths put profits above the health of the ecosystem. Notice I didn't say 'human welfare', fuck human welfare, humans are the only animals that we could do with a lot less of, A LOT less of( I realise this doesn't really apply to NZ, yet....). If this kind of shit even happens in NZ, probably the best place to live on the planet then I despair. I am despairing.

  4. Ugh! Another example of shitting in our own next. And yet we continue to claim to be the most intelligent species on our planet. Appalling!

  5. Ugh!!! Another example of shitting in our own nest. Yet we continue to speak of ourselves as the most intelligent species on our planet. Really? Appalling!

  6. You should check this report out - http://awsassets.wwf.org.au/downloads/fs075_building_markets_for_sustainable_palm_kernel_expeller_17apr14.pdf

  7. What % of Fonterra's milk industry finishes up as artificial infant formula? Do they have eyes on the Asian baby population? Is IBFAN Asia keeping track? Who should?

    1. Without the statistics I would say most. All our exports to China. I remember when we talked about the role of Nestle in Africa. Now it's Fonterra.

  8. Farmers are importing, not Fonterra. Fonterra does not own farms in NZ. In the paper last week they were discouraging the use of pke. It would not be difficult for them to ban it. Marketing!!

    1. Are you suggesting farmers are individually responsible for importing PKE? Has to be a collective organisation, doesn't there? Does not compute. I'll stick to Greenpeace.

    2. Fonterra has been actively discouraging the use of PKE because it actually affects the quality of the milk and they have been doing this for some time. Fonterra itself buys no PKE at all. There are however companies such as Swaps (https://jswap.co.nz/stockfoods/) that import PKE for their Farmer customers, many of those Farmers are Fonterra shareholders, but many are also suppliers to other Dairy Companies


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