High demands for palm oil raises environmental concerns in Peru

Global Business

Peru may a face deforestation crisis as the nation’s palm oil exports pick up. Environmental agencies are now trying to protect Peru’s lush rain forest over increasing profits.

CCTV America’s Dan Collyns reported this story.

High demands for palm oil raises environmental concerns in Peru

High demands for palm oil raises environmental concerns in Peru

Peru may a face deforestation crisis as the nation's palm oil exports pick up. Environmental agencies are now trying to protect Peru's lush rain forest over increasing profits.

Hectares of oil palms are currently grown in Peru, even as carbon-mapping research the U.S.-based Carnegie Institute for Science indicates thousands of hectares of forest have been felled to make way for the crop.

The United Nations says palm oil is already the world’s most traded vegetable oil and as global demand increases, growers are looking for new land.

Top palm oil producing nations, as percent of market 2014-2015 projected

Source: USDA, World Agricultural Production Circular, April 2015.

Palm oil is in nearly half of the products people buy. Everything from toothpaste, shampoo, soap, lipstick, and ice cream contains palm oil. It’s also increasingly used to make biofuel.

But environmentalists are concerned that uncontrolled, the industry could cause massive deforestation.

Satellite imagery in Peru’s Amazon shows that the mono-crop is being grown in areas which were once primary rainforest.

Photos: Palm fruit production

Palm fruits grow in bundles between branches iof the palm tree.
Palm fruits grow in bundles between branches iof the palm tree.
Inside an oil palm fruit
Inside an oil palm fruit
Freshly cut oil palm fruit
Freshly cut oil palm fruit
Oil palm fruit loaded into a truck at a plantation in Sumatra
Oil palm fruit loaded into a truck at a plantation in Sumatra
Area in Indonesia where clear-cutting has occurred, most likely for oil palm production
Area in Indonesia where clear-cutting has occurred, most likely for oil palm production
Area in Indonesia where clear-cutting has occurred, most likely for oil palm production
Area in Indonesia where clear-cutting has occurred, most likely for oil palm production
Palm Oil Factory in Cote D'Ivoire, 2002
Palm Oil Factory in Cote D'Ivoire, 2002
A block of processed organic palm oil
A block of processed organic palm oil

“We’re very concerned about it, we think it could be very bad if Peru keeps interpreting the forest definition the way it’s doing it because it’s attracting foreign investors or national investors,” said Julia Urrunaga of the Peru Environmental Investigation Agency. “The problem is it’s attracting people to install plantations over natural forest.”

Urrunaga said a legal loophole in Peru means authorities can ignore the presence of standing trees when evaluating requests for agricultural land.

Most investors deny they are contributing to deforestation and say the crop is only grown on already degraded land. The authorities said they will tighten regulations.

“I don’t want to make excuses. I’ve made it very clear the environment ministry must play an active role to avoid wrong information or corruption being used to wrongly classify land or justify its change of use,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s Environment Minister said.

Despite this, Peru has identified more than a million hectares of land as suitable for palm oil production, leaving environmentalists worried about the future of the Amazon here.