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Indonesia: Major palm oil producer promises to protect rainforest

Date: 9 Feb 2011

Oil palm

Golden Agri-Resources Ltd (GAR) has said that it will end deforestation in sensitive areas of Indonesia's forest, and will protect forests and peatlands that have a high level of biodiversity. The move is a major turn-around for the biggest company dealing in palm oil in the country, and second largest in the world.

The move, which was made by agreement with the Forest Trust, will still enable GAR to exploit forests that are considered to be lower value.

GAR, the palm oil arm of Sinar Mas, has attracted strong criticism in the past from environmental campaign groups. The announcement was welcomed by Greenpeace: "This could be good news for the forests, endangered species like the orang-utan and for the Indonesian economy." Although it said it would be watching carefully to ensure that the company delivered what it had promised.

Scott Poynton, director of the Forest Trust, called the agreement "a revolutionary moment in the drive to conserve forests."

Pressure from companies seeking sustainable sources of palm oil - and particularly Nestle - are believed to have played a part in motivating the shift by GAR.

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