21/04/2008 (AFP), Jakarta — Greenpeace called for a moratorium Monday on the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia's rainforests and peat-lands, warning that soaring world demand is creating an environmental crisis.
It said a two-year investigation into the health of the country's rainforests and peat-lands showed "wholesale" destruction driven by demand from food, cosmetic and biofuel companies.
"Given the urgent nature of the crisis the only solution for the global climate, the regional environment, the wildlife and the forest-dependent communities ... is a moratorium on oil palm expansion into rainforest and peat-land areas," the environment watchdog said in a statement.
It accused Anglo-Dutch food group Unilever, one of the largest palm oil corporate consumers in the world, of being behind the destruction of forest and peat-land in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island.
It said Unilever annually consumed 1.3 million tonnes of palm oil or palm oil derivatives with over half coming from Indonesia.
"Unilever has failed to use its power to lead the palm oil sector toward sustainability, either through its own palm oil purchasing or through its role as leader of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil," Greenpeace said.
Satellite data shows Unilever suppliers are behind the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations in Central Kalimantan, where orang-utans are on the brink of extinction, it said.
The destruction of Indonesia's forests is seen as a major contributor to global warming and climate change.
Indonesia is likely to overtake Malaysia as the world's top palm oil producer in 2007, due to the dramatically increased area under plantation.
Malaysia is expected to produce 15.82 million tonnes of crude palm oil in 2007 while Indonesia's production estimate for the same year stands at 16.4 million tonnes.
Malaysia and Indonesia together produce 85 percent of the world's palm oil which is enjoying a boom on the back of strong global demand and tight supply.