JOHANNESBURG – Protected forest areas are set to grow by up to 10percent under new rules to stop deforestation, the palm oil industry watchdog said on Tuesday.
Working to make the edible oil greener but under pressure to tighten standards, the 4300-member Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) introduced tougher rules to include a ban on cutting down forests or converting peatlands for palm oil plantations. “We will see an increase in the amount of areas set aside for conservation,” said Darrel Webber, chief executive of the Kuala Lumpur-based RSPO, which includes producers, traders, buyers and green groups in about 90 countries.
“We expect a 5percent to 10percent increase,” he said, adding that members had already protected and managed about 263177 hectares of forest under their old green standards for planting. Palm oil is the world’s most widely-used edible oil, found in everything from margarine to biscuits, and soap to soups. But the industry has come under scrutiny in recent years from green activists and consumers, who have blamed it for forest loss and fires, as well as exploitation of workers.