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Palm Oil – February/March 2002

THE PROBLEM WITH PALM OIL

As you all know we at Piko stock a number of soaps on our shelves. You may have also noticed that over the years some soap that we used to stock are now no longer featured (i.e. Tea Tree soap, Coconut and Sandalwood soaps from Fiji to name a couple). This was not a random decision but one made on the grounds that they contained a particular ingredient – Palm Oil. This newsletter is dedicated to this often-used ingredient in soaps and chocolates and why we choose alternatives when we can.

Oil palm plantations currently extend over millions of hectares of forest land throughout the tropics. Further plantations are either being implemented or promoted in almost every southern country where soil, water and solar energy fill the requirements of this palm.
From Mexico to Brazil, from West to East Africa and from Asia and Southeast Asia to Oceania, governments are being urged to create conditions for the expansion of this crop.

So what is the problem with Palm Oil?
As with any other crop, the problem is not the palm oil itself but the industrial model in which it is being implemented. Palm oil can be grown and harvested in an environmentally friendly manner and it can serve to fulfil the needs of the local populations in a sustainable and equitable manner (although the internet struggles to supply information on sustainable production and tends to focus on the negative). However, it is usually the industrial and not the small scale diversified model that is being promoted.
Palm oil plantations are often preceded by logging, which "clears" the land to make them possible. The plantation then impedes the regrowth of the forest by widespread use of herbicides. The forest thus disappears entirely from vast areas, with serious impact on local flora, fauna, soil and water resources. Erosion is dramatic. Rivers run brown, forest fires start easily, animals cannot find homes, the indigenous people are forced out of their traditional way of life and move to cities or work for the plantation or logging companies. These jobs are seasonal and often under bad working conditions and repression from the government. Between 1997/8, 10 million hectares of forest lands were burned in Indonesia. The haze that covered the region for several months affected the health of over 70 million people in Southeast Asia.
In many tropical countries, local indigenous people do not have formal ownership of the land they traditionally own. Plantation companies are awarded concessions or land titles to that land and receive government support to repress whatever opposition they may face from local communities. This could not be more apparent than in Malaysian/Indonesian-owned Borneo.
Sarawak, a region of Malaysian owned Borneo planned nearly a million acres of palm oil cultivation in 2000. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) made a recent financial package to the Indonesian contingent on the liberalisation of the palm oil sector, while the World Bank provided $400 million in loans for foreign corporations to invest in the industry.
The Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) have been developing free trade agreements that most likely will boost palm oil production and encourage more forest destruction.
Ironically now supply is exceeding demand.
The Malaysian government is trying to deal with a glut of cheap palm oil by burning some of it in biomass plants and at least recoup some of their losses! Even more ironic is that due to the poverty of palm oil farmers the government has moved to draw up pro-active measures to boost the industry and stimulate exports! So on one hand they are burning it because there is too much already on the market and on the other hand more plantations are being  romoted. Go figure.
Malaysia is not only the world's biggest palm oil producer, but also its biggest force in spreading palm oil around the world. Both the government and corporate representatives have visited a number of countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, India, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Nigeria, Guyana, Honduras and others, promoting this palm monoculture system.
Strikingly familiar to their role in the logging industry. And yet it gets worse. Now they are talking about a genetically modified oil palm!

So why do we stock some products that contain palm oil?
Although we would ultimately like to not stock any products that for political, moral or environmental reasons do not comply with our ideals, we do not live in a utopian world.
We wouldn't stock products from China, Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines (and probably the U.S!) on the grounds of poor human rights alone but we wouldn't have anything left on the shelves! Instead we make changes where choices and alternatives are available. In the case of our carob buttons, coconut halves, and coated fruits and nuts for example, there are currently no other alternatives available which are sugar-free, caffeine-free, and chocolatey
without palm oil. We stock it because it's a great 'sweet' substitute for those who can't eat sugar.

But back to the soaps...........
Palm Oil-free soaps we do stock:
Maruia Cinnamon Rainforest Soap $3.02
Maruia Plain Rainforest Soap $3.02
NZ Coromandel Mountains Lavender Soap $2.86
Dr Bronner's Magic Soft Soaps $10.87 236ml

New products this month
• New Zealand Umeboshi Plums $13.10/bag
• Waihi Bush Starflax Oil with Blackcurrant Seed Oil (now there is no need to take a separate marine supplement!) $10.92/250ml, $17.83/500ml
• Organic Almond Oil $14.09/250ml
• Organic Avocado Oil $12.72/250ml
• Mainland Vegetarian Edam Cheese $4.48/250g
• Ferndale Vegetarian Blue Cheese $33.11/kg
• Walnuts – get in quick as there is a limited supply!
• Carob powder – yes it's back
• Genesis Organic Toothpaste and Gel $6.52
• Nature's Cuppa Loose Leaf Tea $5.55/125g
• Purebread's Organic Pizza Bases 2 for $4.26

Other info
Nadine has had another fantastic idea. She would like to compile a Gluten-Free recipe booklet to sell in the shop for all of you out there struggling to find some really yummy gluten-free recipes. If you do have a great tried and true recipe and would like to share it with our other customers then please drop it into us anytime before the end of March.
Thank you!
Vinbrux Bread is available fortnightly on Wednesdays. If people would like to order it, please do so by the Monday prior.
Essene Bread - we're having a hard time figuring out the numbers to order currently. Please place orders by the Friday prior to the Thursday it arrives. This will help us adjust the numbers so more is available.

This newsletter was compiled by Sheryl with help from the following resources:
www.earthisland.org/borneo
www.wrm.org.uy/plantations/palm.html

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