22/03/2009 (Jakarta Globe) - Sinar Mas Group, one of the country’s top palm oil growers, has denied accusations that its activities are damaging the environment and said it would stick to plans to expand its plantations.
Greenpeace activists have targeted Sinar Mas in a recent campaign for contributing to deforestation, which is blamed as a key source of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“We should have been arrested if we were ever involved in deforestation,” said Gandi Sulistiyanto, a managing director of Sinar Mas. He said the company only opened up new plantations on degraded land, not rainforest.
Bustar Maitar, a Greenpeace forest campaigner, accused Sinar Mas of destroying forests.
“We are facing the greatest threat to humanity — climate chaos — yet companies like Sinar Mas can continue to destroy forests and peatlands rather than protecting them for future generations,” Maitar said.
As of the end of September, Smart managed 127,124 hectares of oil palm, according to the company. It produced 410,314 metric tons of crude palm oil from January to September last year, against 509,095 metric tons in all of 2007.
The group has plans for a $100 million expansion.
“We are still a growing company,” Sulistiyanto said. Indonesia is “still competing with Malaysia to become the world’s top producer of palm oil, so we must keep planting.”
He said the current financial crisis may slow down the expansion but would not stop the firm from planting in new areas.
According to Greenpeace, Sinar Mas has 200,000 hectares of unplanted concessions in rainforest in Indonesia and plans to acquire an additional 1.1 million hectares, mainly in Papua.