The Indonesian Palm Oil Association believes that its members are not to be blamed for the string of forest fires in Sumatra’s Riau province that attracted international attention.
Joko Supriyono, the secretary general of the group known as Gapki, believes that the government’s information on the various hot spots in the province is inaccurate.
“The government must validate the information by going straight to the location. Even a zinc roof was identified as a hot spot [by satellite imaging],” he said on Tuesday.
“This haze incident cornered the palm industry further. Without the incident we are already under attack,” Joko said, accusing some parties of exploiting the situation to further disrupt Indonesia’s palm oil industry.
Joko claimed that he checked Gapki’s members in Riau and found that most of the wildfires occurred beyond their concession areas.
“There are four of our members suspected of causing fires. Three of them said that the incident was outside their area and one said it was occurred inside a plot owned by a small-holder,” he added.
Gapki’s members, consisting mostly of large plantation firms, would never resort to a slash-and-burn technique for land clearance as they fear being criminalized for their activities, Joko said.
“Furthermore, there have been no expansions of palm oil plantation in the province,” he claimed.
Joko also highlighted that many of the Gapki members joined the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
Still, Joko admitted that slash-and-burn was the cheapest method for land clearance and small-holders may be tempted to use it due to lack of knowledge and resources.
“Mechanical land clearance would be too expensive for them,” he added.
Joko also reminded that during the dry season fire can be ignited very easily and spread very quickly.
“A simple cigarette butt could trigger wildfires,” he said.
The government recently identified 10 companies with fires on their land on Friday, including Jakarta-based Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (Smart) and Asia Pacific Resources International (April).
Gapki has 600 large-scale plantation firms that cover 3 million hectares of the total 9 million hectares of palm oil plantations across the country.