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EIA Report Exposes Illegal Deforestation of Peruvian Amazon for Palm Oil Cultivation

[Informe completo en espanol]

LIMA, PERU – Today the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) launched a new report, Deforestation by Definition, exposing the ongoing and looming threat of illegal deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon due to installation of agro-industrial monoculture plantations, such as oil palm.

Both national and international actors have requested tens of thousands of hectares of forested public land in the Amazon from the Peruvian government to expand oil palm plantations. Two powerful commercial players, the Melka Group, a network of companies linked to massive deforestation and corrupt land deals in Malaysia, and Grupo Romero, the largest economic actor in Peru, have both illegally deforested significant tracts of forested areas to make way for agricultural plantations and are set to increase operations.

Through analysis that combined Peruvian and Malaysian governmental documents, company reports and data, interviews, and satellite imagery, EIA’s report documents illegal deforestation and irregular land allocation procedures that contribute to large-scale deforestation in violation of both Peru’s laws and international commitments. While forest resources are protected by national law, the Peruvian government has nonetheless approved private sector requests to clear forested land for agricultural plantations throughout the country.

“The Peruvian government is allowing corporations to destroy primary forests in violation of national law by using a skewed interpretation of the legal definition of forests,” said Julia Urrunaga, EIA’s Peru Program Director. “The current practice of defining forests according to agricultural productive capacity, regardless of the presence of standing trees, is not only illogical, it’s illegal.”

Urrunaga cautioned, “Using this flawed interpretation, an estimated twenty million hectares of unclassified Peruvian forest are at risk of being deforested. If the government continues to ignore the Peruvian legal definition of forests and its commitment to protect them, massive tracts of Peruvian Amazon primary forests will remain at risk of being clear cut by new agro-industrial projects from Grupo Romero, Melka Group, or other potential investors.”

Deforestation by Definition reveals an international web of business interests driving deforestation, as economic groups pursue greater agricultural production across the Pacific from Malaysia to Peru. As demand for palm oil is projected to increase globally, companies are aggressively expanding operations into new countries, such as Peru, with rich forest resources.

“The increasingly opaque corporate ownership structures of agricultural companies complicate the implementation and enforcement possibilities of recent “zero-deforestation” pledges by powerful, multinational corporations,” said Kate Horner, EIA Director of Forest Campaigns. “These pledges rely on supply chain traceability and excluding suppliers that are responsible for deforestation and human rights abuses. If responsibility for such acts is obscured through a network of shell companies, commodities linked to deforestation will continue to enter the supply chain.”

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Contact:
Washington, D.C.: Maggie Dewane, (202) 483-6621, mdewane@eia.global.org
Lima, Peru: Julia Urrunaga, julia@eia-global.org

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