Government happy with palm kernel imports

The Government has no plans to stop palm kernel imports after Greenpeace activists were arrested this weekend for boarding a ship carrying the product.

The Government has no plans to stop palm kernel imports after Greenpeace activists were arrested this weekend for boarding a ship carrying the product.

Four women and a man were arrested after they boarded the MV Great Motion, with a load of 10,000 tonnes of palm kernel, which moored at Port Taranaki awaiting another ship to unload its contents.

Police later said the activists had been released on bail and were to appear at New Plymouth District Court on Thursday charged with unlawfully being on a boat.

Greenpeace has called on the Government to put a stop to Fonterra suppliers' expanding use of palm kernel, which it says is typically grown on land cleared of rainforest.

But Agriculture Minister David Carter told NZPA that the product was useful and he had no issue with it.

"It plays a useful part in New Zealand's dairy industry. When drought conditions hit it becomes a necessary supplement to avoid animal welfare issues," he said.

"Getting the kernel does not cause deforestation, that's where Greenpeace is being quite mischievous. "Certainly the Government has concerns around deforestation and plays a very active part internationally in trying to reduce the amount of deforestation."

If the kernel was not shipped it would be burned, and buying it did not give indirect support to the industry, Mr Carter said.

"No it's not, it's a by-product that's left as a result of the deforestation to produce palm oil, it's not something that enhances the profitability of palm oil production at all."

Greenpeace NZ climate campaigner Nathan Argent said 1.4 million tonnes of palm kernel was shipped to New Zealand last year.

"Using palm kernel is undermining this country's international clean, green reputation, because of its impact on the climate, and rainforests. The Government is now failing in its duties by refusing to take Fonterra to task over its escalating palm kernel use and its industrial dairying technique which is so damaging to the climate," he said.

Palm kernel was not just being used in drought situations, he said.

"The rapid industrialisation of dairying in New Zealand, driven by Fonterra, is the real culprit, as it relies on supplementary feeds like palm kernel. Since Fonterra was established in 2001, imports of palm kernel expeller have soared from virtually zero (1554 tonnes in 2000) to a record high of almost 1.4 million tonnes in 2010, according to Statistics New Zealand.

"Feeding stock on pasture, using locally grown emergency alternatives to palm kernel (such as maize silage), and moving from the current industrial farming model to low impact practices, are the best options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and protecting our international brand."

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