RSPO says Plantaciones Pucallpa may have violated its rules on protecting environment and rights of local people
LIMA, April 25 (Reuters) - A palm oil industry body on Monday ordered a member company with a 5,000 hectare (12,355 acre) concession in Peru to stop developing new plantations until it can prove it has not cleared any primary forest.
The dispute comes amid growing concerns from environmentalist and indigenous communities about the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations in the Peruvian Amazon in recent years.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said Plantaciones Pucallpa S.A.C. might have violated its rules aimed at protecting the environment and the rights of local communities.
"It appears that Plantaciones has cleared primary forest progressively since 2011," RSPO complaints coordinator Ravin Krishnan said in a letter to the company. He gave Plantaciones 14 days to respond.
Calls to the office of Plantaciones went unanswered during regular business hours on Monday. A representative of the company did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
The complaint before RSPO was filed by the indigenous community Santa Clara de Uchunya, which accuses Plantaciones of selling illegal timber, burning down forests and planting oil palm on ancestral lands.
Destroying primary forest is illegal in Peru. But environmentalists say regional governments frequently dole out timber and oil palm concessions that contain large swaths of in-tact rainforest.
The central government in recent years ordered Plantaciones and two other palm oil companies with the same legal representatives to halt activities while it probes deforestation allegations.
Indigenous leader Robert Guimaraes said Plantaciones has continued to convert primary forest into rows of oil palm despite protests from Santa Clara de Uchunya villagers.
"Each time there are more and more clashes between the community and the company" employees, Guimaraes said.
Conflicts between palm oil producers and local communities are common in Indonesia, the world's biggest producer. The crop is new to Peru, which has yet to export its oil from a slew of new plantations.
The RSPO ban on planting oil palm was a first for a company in Peru and could cut Plantaciones off from future markets if it is ousted from the organization, said Julia Urrunaga, Peru program director for the Environmental Investigation Agency.
The RSPO is a body of consumers, environmentalists and plantation companies to promote sustainable palm oil products. It is used by European palm oil buyers as the international sustainability benchmark.
Palm oil is used extensively in food, cosmetics and biofuels.
(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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