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Asia Minute: Limits to Growth for Indonesian Palm Oil Producers

Craig Morey / Flickr
Craig Morey / Flickr

National forecasters say Hawai‘i faces an increased chance of wildfires this summer, in part because drought conditions worsened last month. Dry conditions are also causing fire worries in Southeast Asia, but one government is taking some steps that may lead to a safer summer. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

This is not the time for new palm oil plantations in Indonesia.  That’s the view of president Joko Widodo—and it’s a policy that’s starting to be enforced by his cabinet.  The Jakarta Post reports Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister has suspended the process for approving new palm oil permits.

Palm oil is a controversial crop—it’s in many processed foods and in household products from shampoo and toothpaste to makeup and laundry detergent.  But palm oil farmers have cleared land by burning large parts of forests in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Activists say that deforestation has led to the destruction of habitat for many animals.  The Orangutan Conservancy says wild orangutans have lost more than 80-percent of their habitat in the last 20 years—mostly on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo—where palm oil production has skyrocketed….along with fires to clear brush.  Each year, those fires contribute to massive clouds of haze that waft over neighboring countries….and have drawn international criticism.

A few weeks ago, President Widodo said “palm oil concessions available at the moment are already adequate.” More specific presidential guidance on palm oil details: expected in coming weeks.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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