2020’s Top Deforesters for Oil Palm in Southeast Asia: A Lower Rate of Deforestation, but the Same Culprits

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 Palm Oil • Southeast Asia
 February 9, 2021

Chain Reaction Research (CRR) has detected approximately 38,000 hectares (ha) of deforestation on oil palm oil concessions in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea in 2020. Approximately 22,000 ha (58 percent) can be attributed to just ten palm oil group companies in Indonesia, while the remaining part is distributed between 112 different companies.

In 2020, deforestation detected within oil palm concessions in the region was the lowest in the last three years. From 74,000 ha in 2018 to 90,000 ha in 2019, the 38,000 ha observed in 2020 is 42 percent of 2019’s figure. The reduction of deforestation for oil palm cultivation was already visible in the first half of 2020. CRR analysis, coordinated by Aidenvironment and its partner organisation Earth Equalizer, concluded that Indonesia’s economic contraction and travel restrictions issued because of the Covid-19 pandemic were among the reasons for this decline. Continued restrictions because of the pandemic, in Indonesia and key export markets, may explain the continued slow pace of deforestation in Q3 and Q4 of last year, although domestic demand and rallying palm oil prices may result in an upturn in land development in 2021.

Most deforesters featured in this year’s top 10 list largest deforesters are companies that also appeared in the 2018 and 2019 lists, highlighting once again both the failure of many buyers with NDPE policies to adequately implement their policies and the risk of leakage markets.

Figure 1: Top 10 deforesters in 2020

Source: Aidenvironment

1. Sulaidy

Since 2018, Sulaidy-associated companies have consistently ranked first among the top deforesters. In 2020, 6,390 ha of deforestation were detected within six of Sulaidy’s palm oil concessions. PT Borneo Citra Persada Jaya in Kutai, East Kalimantan contributed the largest amount of deforestation, with 1,833 ha of forest cleared. Public information about Sulaidy and his companies’ operations is difficult to find. As Sulaidy seemingly does not own or operate any mill, it is likely that the fresh fruit bunches (FFB) produced by his concessions are sent to third-party mills. A field investigation conducted in February 2020 on PT Palmdale Agrosia Lestari, a Sulaidy subsidiary revealed that the plantation was selling FFB to PT Pundi Lahan Khatulistiwa. This mill supplies several companies with NDPE policies, including ADMOleonAvonDanoneKellogg’sMondelēzNestléPZ CussonsUnilever, and Upfield.

2. Ciliandry Anky Abadi

The second position is filled by Ciliandy Anky Abadi (CAA), which also appeared in the top deforesters list in 2018. CAA’s overlaps with First Resources and FAP Agri through Fangiono family relationships. Both First Resources and FAP Agri operate under NDPE policies, although CAA does not have any sustainability commitments. The overlap between First Resources and CAA has been well documented, but First Resources has denied that CAA is either a related party or is financially or operationally linked to CAA.

CAA operates nine oil palm plantations in Kalimantan, eight in Central Kalimantan, and one in East Kalimantan. It also has two mills located in Kalimantan and Sumatra. In 2020, CRR detected total deforestation of 3,455 ha within CAA’s oil palm concessions. CAA, through its operating palm oil mills PT Tirta Madu and PT Borneo Ketapang Indah, supplies AvonFriesland CampinaJohnson & JohnsonKellogg’sL’OrealMondelēzPZ Cussons, and Upfield.

3. Bengalon Jaya Lestari

Bengalon Jaya Lestari first appeared in the top-deforester list during the first half of 2020. Bengalon Jaya Lestari has cleared 2,790 ha in 2020 on concessions PT Kartika Nugraha Sakti and PT Wana Jaya Abadi in North Kalimantan. The group does not appear to operate palm oil mills, so it cannot be connected to any NDPE buyer.

4. Mulia Sawit Agro Lestari (MSAL) Group

Mulia Sawit Agro Lestari (MSAL) has been featured in the top deforesters list for three years in a row since 2018. In 2020, the group cleared 2,426 ha of forest, peat forest, and peat in its three plantations in Central Kalimantan. MSAL’s palm oil products appear in the supply chains of the following companies with NDPE policies: AAKCOFCO InternationalOleonAvonGeneral MillsJohnson & JohnsonKellogg’s, and PZ Cussons.

5. PT Permata Sawit Mandiri

The fifth position is occupied by PT Permata Sawit Mandiri, owned by Mr. Ikhsanudin. In 2020, PT Permata Sawit Mandiri cleared 2,022 ha of forest. Public information about the owner is not available, and it is also unknown which palm oil mills the company supplies. Due to limited information, the group cannot be linked to any NDPE supply chain.

6. IndoGunta

Ranked in the sixth position is IndoGunta, a company related to Indonesia’s Salim Group. IndoGunta operates five oil palm plantations: two in Kalimantan and three in Papua. While the group is actively clearing land on all its concessions, the largest deforestation in 2020 occurred on PT Rimbun Sawit Papua with 1,196 ha. IndoGunta enters NDPE supply chains through AvonJohnson & JohnsonKellogg’sPZ Cussons, and Reckitt Benckiser.

7. Jhonlin Group

Jhonlin has been consistently featured in the top deforesters since 2018, occupying the second position for two years in a row. In 2020, the group cleared 957 ha of forest, mainly inside PT Kurun Sumber Rezeki’s concession. Smaller deforestation activities (64 ha) were also found on PT Pradiksi Gunatama, a subsidiary which had recently issued an IPO in 2020. Jhonlin Group was founded by a South Kalimantan businessman, Haji Andi Syamsudin Arsyad (commonly known as Haji Isam). His business ranges from palm oil to coal mining. Twelve oil palm concessions and three mills belong to either Jhonlin Group or the wider Isam family. Jhonlin Group appears in the supply chain of several companies with NDPE policies. They include AAKADMCargillCOFCO InternationalOleonSime DarbyFriesland CampinaGeneral MillsJohnson & JohnsonKellogg’sL’OrealNestléPZ CussonsReckitt Benckiser, and Upfield.

8. Shanghai Xinjiu Chemical Co.

Shanghai Xinjiu Chemical Co. is a Chinese chemical company that specializes in the production of fatty acids. It is the owner of PT Sebaung Sawit Plantation in North Kalimantan. Approximately 890 ha of peat clearance were detected on this concession in 2020. Little is known about Shanghai Xinjiu Chemical Co. It does not have a NDPE policy and is not an RSPO member. CRR previously listed PT Sebaung Sawit Plantation as belonging to Rugao Shuangma Group, along with another concession, PT Palem Segar Lestari. Rugao Shuangma was included as the seventh-largest deforester in the first half of 2020. However, recent analysis by CRR identified that ownership of these two plantations has changed. As such, Shanghai Xinjiu Chemical Co. is now listed instead of Rugao Shuangma.

9. Citra Borneo Indah Group

Citra Borneo Indah (CBI) Group is one of the parent companies of a publicly listed company with NDPE commitments, Sawit Sumbermas Sarana (SSMS). No deforestation activities were detected within SSMS-owned subsidiaries. However, CRR found total deforestation of 854 ha in 2020 in the oil palm concessions of PT Sepalar Yasa Kartika, PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari, and PT Tanjung Sawit Abadi, which are related to CBI through family ties. The majority shares of PT Sepalar Yasa Kartika belong to PT Mandiri Indah Lestari, which is entirely owned by the sons of H. Abdul Rasyid Ahmad Saleh, the owner of CBI Group. PT Tanjung Sawit Abadi is indirectly owned by SSMS group through PT Kalimantan Sawit Abadi. As for PT Sawit Mandiri Lestari, notary acts show a common registration address with SSMS confirming possible links between the companies. CBI supplies to AAKOleonGeneral MillsJohnson & JohnsonKellogg’sL’OrealNestléReckitt Benckiser, and PZ Cussons.

10. Indonusa

The last position is occupied by Indonusa, a group owned by Rosna Tjuatja, an Indonesian national residing in Singapore. The group featured in the top deforesters list in 2019 and has continued clearing on PT Internusa Jaya Sejahtera. The concession, located in Papua, contributed to 774 ha of deforestation in 2020. Indonusa does not have an NDPE policy. It is also not an RSPO member. It sells products to IFFCOAvonDanoneJohnson & JohnsonKellogg’sMondelēzPZ Cussons, and Upfield.

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