World September 28, 2016 | 9:06 am

Greenpeace blockades palm oil trader IOI in Rotterdam

Rotterdam, 27 September 2016 – Greenpeace activists closedoff access for all imports and exports from palm oil trader IOI this morning inthe harbour of Rotterdam, palm oil’s gateway into Europe. Palm oil fromcompanies involved in forest destruction, peatland fires and child labour isstill flowing into Europe and the US through IOI facilities, a new report byGreenpeace International has revealed.

Two Indonesian men who have been directly affected byforest fires are blocking access to the refinery with eight activists. TheGreenpeace ship Esperanza has moored to the dock at the back of the refinery,preventing palm oil being unloaded from incoming oil tankers.

IOI suppliers are linked to serious environmental and humanrights abuses such as destruction of Indonesian rainforests, starting illegalfires and child labour. Palm oil from these companies continues to flood intoEurope and the USA, research by Greenpeace reveals. Findings include:

Destruction of primary forest in Papua and Kalimantan.

Development on peatland

Extensive uncontrolled fires including evidence ofdeliberate setting of fires in land clearing.

Human rights abuses: use of excessive force, exploitationof workers and evidence of child labour.

Non-compliance with the criteria and principles of thesustainability label (RSPO)

Plantation industries such as palm oil have been clearingrainforests and draining peatland for years, creating ideal conditions for theextensive forest fires that have ravaged Indonesia over the past two decades. Lastyear’s fires were catastrophic, blanketing the region in a choking smoke hazefor months. Between July and October 2015 more than 2 million hectares ofIndonesian forest and peatland burned [3], an area half the size of theNetherlands. The resulting smoke haze caused an estimated 100,300 prematuredeaths across South East Asia in 2015, a Harvard and Columbia study revealedlast week.

The two Indonesian men have travelled from West Kalimantanin Indonesian Borneo to the Netherlands to bring their protest against IOI tothe company’s European base. One of them is Nilus Kasmi. Fires caused Nilus andhis family great hardship last year – they were exposed to the toxic particlesand fumes which closed schools, offices and brought business to a standstill.

"I had hoped the government and companies could resolvethe fire crisis, but their failure to do so made me realise I have aresponsibility to preserve Indonesian forests," said Nilus Kasmi. Both heand his companion Adi Prabowo have been trained by Greenpeace to locate,prevent and extinguish fires.

"Palm oil trader IOI is unknown to the general public.This serves the company well, as it can get away with practices that could notbear public scrutiny," said Annisa Rahmawati, forest campaigner atGreenpeace Indonesia. "Together we will change that. IOI should know thatthe world is watching and that there is no market for palm oil that is sodestructive to Indonesia, the habitat of endangered species, our shared climateand the people of South East Asia."

Greenpeace has delivered IOI a way to lift the blockade, byleaving a statement on its doorstep for the company to sign and by doing socommit to a sustainable palm oil supply chain. If IOI agrees publicly to committo protect forests, Greenpeace will end the action and lift the blockade.

Palm oil is a commodity used in more than half of popularsupermarket products ranging from biscuits and chocolate to shampoo and babypowder.

"We are not anti-palm oil, but we know its productioncan and must be sustainable. It is entirely possible to grow the palm oilindustry without clearing or burning more forest," said Annisa. "Thedirty practices of companies like IOI and its suppliers are morallyobjectionable, economically harmful and unnecessary. Moreover, consumers areunknowing and unwilling accomplices to these practices. This has to stop."

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