JAKARTA, Sep 20, 2019, VNA. The palm oil industry was responsible for at least 39 percent of forest loss on the biodiversity-rich island of Borneo between 2000 and 2018, according to data from the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR), a research firm based in Indonesia, reported the Vietnam News Agency.
The data comes as forest clearance fires in Borneo and parts of Indonesia spread smog across Southeast Asia, causing air quality to drop to unhealthy levels in neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia.
Borneo, shared by Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, lost 6.3 million hectares of forest cover during the period, of which palm oil companies accounted for about 2.4 million hectares while pulpwood firms accounted for 461,319 hectares.
Palm oil was responsible for 35 percent of forest loss in the Indonesian part of Borneo, and 46 percent on the Malaysian side.
Indonesia and Malaysia produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil, which is used in everything from soaps, lipstick to pizza and biodiesel.
CIFOR determined the amount of deforestation caused by companies by calculating the area of forest cleared and converted to industrial plantations within the same year. The data does not include plantations farmed by smallholders, who account for 40 percent of palm oil production globally, industry estimates show.
According to David Gaveau, a climate scientist at CIFOR, the conversion from forest area to plantations has slowed since 2012 due to lower prices for palm oil and Indonesia’s bans on new plantations. Last year, forest loss from expansion of palm oil plantations fell to 22 percent from 28.5 percent in the previous year.