Sunday Star Times: New Zealand’s hunger for palm kernel

An investigation by the Sunday Star Time‘s reporter Kim Knight into the importation into New Zealand from Malaysia and Indonesia of palm kernel extract for use as a livestock feed supplement in the dairy industry.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“Palm kernel expeller or PKE is a product made from its crushed and processed fruit. Unlike palm oil, its use has received minimal press. Two weeks ago, the Sunday Star-Times travelled to Indonesia, with an unofficial environmental and rural sector delegation, to investigate this trade first-hand.

“Why? Because last year, almost one-quarter of the world’s entire palm kernel expeller was sold to New Zealand. Statistics NZ data shows it came, in almost equal measures, from Indonesia and Malaysia. And, according to the secretary-general of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the international body set up to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil, “very little… would have been certified at all”.

“In fact, the Sunday Star-Times determined that even under the absolute best-case scenario, nearly 800,000 tonnes of potentially environmentally and socially unsustainable palm kernel entered New Zealand last year.

“Figures from the United States Department of Agriculture put this country’s demand for PKE second only to the combined 27 countries that make up the European Union (where it is also used as a fuel).

“‘The EU remains the primary destination,” says Wiliam George, USDA senior agriculture economist. “But New Zealand is the major growth market.'”

“The 1,104,187 tonnes of PKE that entered our ports in 2008 represented more than a thousand-fold increase since 2000 and was twice that of 2007 imports. The key drivers: drought and the subsequent shortage and high price of locally grown supplementary feed, and the intensification of our dairy farms.”