Indonesia says won't approve new palm oil permits after moratorium lapses

by Reuters
Friday, 24 September 2021 09:03 GMT

Palm oil plantation is pictured next to a burnt forest near Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan province, Indonesia, September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

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A lack of clarity on the extension of the moratorium has alarmed environmentalists who say that Indonesia is at risk of losing further tracts of forest to plantations

JAKARTA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia will not approve new palm oil permits even after the lapse of a moratorium on new plantations, a senior government official said on Friday, amid concerns from green groups about a watering down in protection for forests.

The moratorium, which was introduced in 2018 to stop deforestation and improve governance in the palm oil industry, ended on Sept. 19 without any clear replacement.

Although authorities remain undecided on whether to extend the ban, they are committed to not approve any permits for new palm plantations, said Ruandha Agung Sugardiman, a senior official at Indonesia's Environment and Forestry Ministry,

"Even without (the moratorium), the policy laid down by the environment and forestry minister is to continue the ban on new permits for forest clearance for palm oil plantations," he told an online conference.

Indonesia, home to the world's third-largest tropical forests and a top producer of palm, has banned forest clearing since 2011. The country's environment ministry claims to have reduced the rate of deforestation by 75% last year by controlling forest fires and curbing land clearing.

But a lack of clarity surrounding the extension of the moratorium has alarmed environmentalists who say that Indonesia is at risk of losing further tracts of forest to plantations, especially after the country had just ended a deforestation pact with Norway.

Other than suspending new permits, under the palm moratorium's rules the government was required to review areas given to companies for palm cultivation that have not yet been utilised, or are suspected of being used for other purposes. On Wednesday, the country's deputy minister of food and agriculture said authorities would use existing laws to deal with issues pertaining to palm oil permits after the moratorium expired.

(Reporting by Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by Fathin Ungku Editing by Ed Davies)

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