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Indonesia’s palm oil permit moratorium to last five years

Oil palm fruit in Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer. The commodity is used in everything from detergents and cosmetics to breakfast cereals and ice cream. Photo by Rhett A. Butler

  • Indonesia’s chief economics minister made the announcement after a meeting between ministers last week.
  • The moratorium will take the form of a presidential instruction to be issued in the near future, he said.
  • The forestry ministry has already taken steps to follow up on the moratorium announcement.

In April, Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo declared a moratorium on new licenses to establish palm oil plantations, a decision welcomed by advocates for the environment and indigenous rights.

More of the details have since emerged. On Friday, the chief economics minister announced that the government was preparing to formalize the moratorium by issuing a presidential instruction, one of several forms the policy could have taken.

The moratorium will last five years, Darmin Nasution said after a meeting with cabinet colleagues.

“We want to reorganize the lands already planted with oil palm, including by increasing production and replanting,” Nasution said.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry has already moved to follow up on the moratorium announcement. In May, the ministry, which must approve the release of land from Indonesia’s vast forest zone so that it can be developed, rejected all outstanding requests to plant oil palm there, sparing a total of 851,000 hectares (3,300 square miles) from conversion.

That was the first round of a four-phase review the ministry is undertaking in the wake of the moratorium announcement. In the second round, the ministry canceled a number of “in-principle” approvals it had already issued to prospective oil palm developers, taking another 600,000 hectares off the table.

After a company obtains an in-principle approval, the ministry must sign off on the delineation of the land in question, after which it issues a forest release permit — the target of the review’s third round.

“All forest release permits for the period 2015-2016 will be cancelled,” environment and forestry minister Siti Nurbaya declared in May. “We have a strong legal basis for doing this after I received the initial findings of the third round review.”

In the fourth round, the ministry will look at all outstanding forest release permits, many of which are in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region.

An oil palm plantation in Indonesia's Riau province. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay
An oil palm plantation in Indonesia’s Riau province. Photo by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay
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