Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology, the agribusiness arm of Sinar Mas Group, says it has applied a 'zero-burning' policy since 1997. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Palm Oil Producers Deny Role in Forest Fires, Cite ‘Zero-Burn’ Policy


SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

Jakarta. The head of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association, or Gapki, on Tuesday came out in support of the country’s palm oil producers against allegations of causing the haze choking several regions, saying producers stand to lose from deliberately lighting forest fires and abide by a “zero burning” policy.

"[Members of Gapki] have implemented sustainability principles," Joko Supriyono, head of Gapki, said as quoted by Antara. He added that buyers of palm oil products demanded eco-friendly practices in the production and supply chain.

Producers face heavy sanctions and risk having their permits revoked if found to be clearing land through fire, Joko said.

"It is impossible for companies that have invested trillions of rupiahs to take the risk of having their permits revoked just because they want to save the cost of land clearing," he said.

Joko cited data from Global Forest Watch, which found that between January and the end of August this year, fires in oil palm concessions stood at 16 percent of all land, as opposed to 65 percent of non-concession land.

Separately, the secretary general of the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Bambang Hendroyono, told Antara that the ministry had frozen the operating permits of three companies linked to forest fires.

Tempirai Palm Resources and Waringin Agro Jaya in South Sumatra and Langgam Inti Hibrindo in Riau will have their permits frozen. The ministry also froze the permit of Hutani Sola Lestari in Riau province, which held a logging concession permit.

Bambang said that as of Tuesday the companies could not proceed with their operations until the police had completed an investigation into the fires.

Indonesia is currently in a state of emergency as thick haze from forest fires blankets several provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan, stretching as far as Singapore and Malaysia and sending air pollution indexes to dangerous levels.