October 24, 2018

Cargill tainted by peat ecosystem destruction in West Papua

( - The palm oil supply chain of self-proclaimed major palm oil trader Cargill is still linked to PT ANJT, a palm oil company exploiting part of an Indonesian peat ecosystem to make way for its palm oil plantations. 

A large part of ANJT’s palm oil concession, PT PPM, in the province of West Papua, lies in a peat ecosystem which is being cleared by the Indonesian-listed company to expand its palm oil business. 

‘No buy’ position’? 

On its website, Cargill declares that it adopted a ‘no buy’ position with regard to ANJT in October 2016. In collaboration with KLK, its Malaysian trading partner, they suspended palm oil purchasing from ANJT due to deforestation.

Subsequently, however, KLK is said to have reengaged with ANJT by requesting that it commit to a sustainability implementation plan (March 2017). Cargill has acknowledged that it continues to receive updates on this engagement and backs KLK’s request.

It is unclear how much progress, if any, has been accomplished from KLK’s sustainability engagement with ANJT as no updates on this issue have been made by Cargill on its website. 

Nonetheless, the fact is that since March 2017, the month after the release of the peat ecosystem map by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya, ANJT has carried on with new palm oil expansion across its concession in part of the West Papua peat ecosystem.

The Planet Explorer images below, provided by Greenomics Indonesia (Oct 22), show one of the locations of the new peat ecosystem development undertaken by ANJT following the issuance of the peat ecosystem map.

Cargill’s vague response

On its website, Cargill acknowledges that it remains connected to ANJT’s palm oil through its direct trading partner, the Permata Hijau Group (PHG), but also states that they are in discussions to remove ANJT’s palm oil from their supply chain (May 2018).

Again, however, there are no further updates on this matter from Cargill. 

Following up on this, the US giant was asked by (Oct 22) when it would completely sever its links with ANJT’s palm oil.

Colin Lee, Director of Corporate Affairs for Cargill Tropical Palm Holdings, responded (Oct 24) by asserting that “We immediately engaged our direct supplier (PHG) and have agreed on the terms to remove ANJT from our supply chain.”

However, asked again when Cargill’s supply chain would be completely free of ANJT’s palm oil, whether it will be this month or next month given that ANJT remains in its supply chain, Cargill's reply was not definitive, stating “This will be done at the soonest, in line with the required procedure”.

The following Planet Explorer images, also provided by Greenomics (Oct 22), confirm that from March 2017 to May 2018, Cargill was associated with ANJT’s deforestation, involving the exploitation of part of the West Papua peat ecosystem.

ANJT also blatantly continues to clear West Papua’s high carbon stock (HCS) forests despite the palm oil moratorium recently imposed by President Joko Widodo, as earlier reported by (Oct 10). Surprisingly, ANJT still appears in Cargill’s latest global mill list

Cargill should be transparent by explaining to the public the size of the gap between its declaration about adopting a ‘no buy’ position on ANJT’s palm oil, made in October 2016, and the reality of the situation.

Promises and commitments

As also previously reported by (Oct 15), Nestlé, as part of a promise to blacklist its suppliers linked to deforestation and peat destruction, stated that it would remove ANJT’s palm oil from its direct suppliers. As of now, this is still in process and not yet 100% achieved. 

Similarly, Mars has also asked its direct supplier ADM to remove ANJT’s palm oil from its supply chain, as also pointed out in a recent news report (Oct 19).

Nevertheless, despite these declarations, promises and commitments made by Nestlé, Mars and Cargill, no clear deadline exists as to when their supply chains and tanks will be absolutely free of ANJT’s palm oil.

All the while, HCS forests, including those in the hugely valuable West Papua peat ecosystem, continue to disappear due to the business-as-usual practices of ANJT.