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Myth/Fact

Oil palm plantations are to blame for deforestation and fires across the world

Palm oil is not the world’s leading cause of deforestation. Research from the European Commission and Centre for Global Development shows that other commodities – beef/livestock, soybean and even maize – are bigger drivers of deforestation. Deforestation from soybean is double that of palm. Together, deforestation caused by cocoa and coffee is equal to that of palm.

Palm oil is not the leading cause of fires in Indonesia. Global Forest Watch (GFW) data show just 11 per cent of Indonesia’s fires in 2019 were inside oil palm plantation areas. Plantation management and monitoring plays a significant role in controlling and preventing fires.

Palm oil in Indonesia does not deserve to be attacked based on a false premise.

Oil palm plantations have contributed to deforestation in Indonesia. This is no different than deforestation in wealthy countries for soybean, sunflower, wheat, dairy and livestock farming.

The facts must be clearly stated. Deforestation for oil palm in Indonesia peaked more than 10 years ago. The government has introduced a ban on deforestation for oil palm. Major plantation companies have also made zero-deforestation commitments.

Tree cover loss in Indonesia is slowing. Indonesia is currently going through what is known as a ‘forest transition’. As countries become wealthier, they manage their forests better for conservation and increase their forest areas. Forest transition has taken place in wealthy Western countries and is now happening in emerging economies – such as Indonesia. During ‘forest transition’, countries will reach a ‘forest minimum’. Long-term studies indicate that forests in Western Europe have been in decline for centuries because of agriculture. The UK and Ireland reached their forest minimum 200 years ago, for example, after many centuries of rabid deforestation for agriculture and other economic uses.

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