Fonterra has more than just its financial restructure head-ache to mull on this weekend. Its dogged support for rainforest-destroying palm kernel feed (PKE) must now be giving them a cracking migraine.
PM says “Of course, [PKE] has some impact”
First, the Prime Minister changed his tune. He initially lept to parrot Fonterra and FedFarmers by saying: “It’s a waste product, in my opinion it’s not leading to deforestation and on that basis I have no intention of intervening.” But in answer to questions from Russel he said, “Of course, it has some impact; the Government does not deny that”.
This shift was because Russel presented the evidence (as he had done weeks earlier) that PKE’s real and proportional values, and the level of NZ demand, “significantly add to the profitability of [the palm] industry and helps fuel its expansion into virgin rainforest across South-east Asia”:
- New Zealand paid $317 million for palm kernel in 2008
- PKE contributes up to 15 percent of the income stream of the palm oil industry [We've asked the PM for the source of his 1.5%, and checking our up-to-15%]
- Daniel Cheow, the managing director of a Malaysian palm kernel exporter called Palmbase, said that palm kernel prices “have shot up as demand is coming in much faster than expected, which in part is a result of the dramatic increase in demand coming from New Zealand”
- Diesel is a “by-product” of the petrol industry, but we don’t downplay its value and contribution to greenhouse gas emissions
- The World Bank withdrew lending to Fonterra’s kernel partner Wilma last week because of its role in rainforest destruction
- Fonterra subsidiary RD1’s own comments that the price of palm kernel is ‘driven by demand’.
Incidentally, the PM also took an unusual step of inciting protest: “I look forward to the Greens and Greenpeace picketing supermarkets [about palm oil], if they really want to stop deforestation.” Nice.
International press spot-light
Second, the Greenpeace action in Tauranga, and the pressure on Fonterra’s use of PKE since the Sunday Star Times expose a month ago, has rippled through the international media. Reuters, BBC, AFP, AP, ABC/Radio Australia, Reuters India, Chile TV, ChinaThe Canadian Press, even the Scotsman and the Belfast Telegraph. And the USA Today.
If the facts are unpalatable for Fonterra and the Government, the international media spotlight will have got their attention.
“I feel a change coming on” said Dylan
It may be that the “Greenpeace protest won’t shift Fonterra or PM” (as Stuff put it), but the protest, plus international media spotlight, plus the evidence, already has.
The solution is simple: use our own supplementary grain and maize feeds, supporting our farmers, reducing biosecurity risks, reducing current account deficit by $313m, saving the rainforests and showing the world we can live up to ‘clean and green’.