Honduran palm oil sector commits to deforestation-free supply chain

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

A palm plantation. © GettyImages/arturcarvalho
A palm plantation. © GettyImages/arturcarvalho

Related tags Palm oil Sustainability deforestation

The Honduran palm oil industry and government have committed to a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain that NGO Solidaridad has called "very positive".

The public-private pledge was co-ordinated by Solidaridad with the aim of helping palm oil producers, traders and buyers fulfill zero-deforestation commitments and supporting the Honduran government’s aim to increase sustainable rural development.

Solidaridad said the agreement was a solid foundation that would create an important link between multiple stakeholders, thanks to its focus on intersectoral co-responsibility.

Signatories include private corporations, smallholder cooperatives, environmental organizations and the government of Honduras.

Under the agreement, which was signed this month, stakeholders commit to avoiding horizontal expansion of plantations. If they wish to increase production, they must do so vertically by applying best practice to increase yields.

Signatories also pledge to define crop traceability stop the agricultural frontier and reduce the threat to vulnerable ecosystems; apply compensation and remediation mechanisms; restore degraded areas and ‘go beyond’ certification by creating biological corridors.

To read the commitment in full, click here (in Spanish)​.​ 

The signatories of the pledge. © Solidaridad

'A differentiated export product'

A zero-deforestation palm oil supply chain will allow Honduras to offer “a differentiated export product that can generate trust among customers mainly in the European market [that fulfills] the objectives of Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations”,​ reads the commitment.

Although the commitment is 100% voluntary, external government agent, the Honduran National Institute for Forest Conservation and Development, Protected Areas and Wildlife (ICF), is responsible for verification and monitoring the commitment.

ICF will use SIGMOF, an information platform for forest management and monitoring, a platform that aims to centralize information from the forestry sector in a transparent and efficient way. The platform will then be used to analyze, document and operationalize the zero-deforestation monitoring process.

The ICF is training all signatories to use this monitoring protocol and system. They also aim to set a foundation for the remediation and compensation mechanisms for the restoration of oil palm growing areas and forests.

“The challenge is the smallholder; just one of the signatories, Hondupalma, is made up of 30 cooperatives or associated groups, and hundreds of independent partners and producers,” ​Valery Cohn, regional communications specialist at Solidaridad, told FoodNavigator-LATAM.

Nevertheless, Cohn said she felt “very positive​” about the pledge, which is the first commitment within a roadmap.

oil palm plantation, aerial view, thailand, pigphoto
© GettyImages/pigphoto

According to Cohn, many palm plantations in Honduras were established on old banana plantations​, destroyed by the 1974 hurricane. 

A 2016 study, The Impacts of Oil Palm on Recent Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss​, analyzed oil palm expansion between 1989 and 2013 and the degree to which it was associated with deforestation. It found that 45% of sampled oil palm plantations in Southeast Asia and 31% in South America were on sites that were forested in 1989. In Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, however, the researchers said only 2% of oil palm plantations were established on land that was forest in 1989.

Roger Pineda, corporate relations director at Corporación Dinant, one of the signatories, echoed Cohn’s comments.

“Unlike other places, deforestation has not been a major issue for the palm oil industry in Honduras,” ​he said. “The agreement represents a strong commitment by different stakeholders, precisely to avoid reaching a point in which deforestation becomes a major concern for the Honduran palm oil business.”

Pineda said Dinant planted its oil palm plantations on existing agricultural land that had already been cleared by previous owners for such uses as cattle ranching and banana plantations and said the company has no plans to acquire more land for plantations and are focusing instead on increasing productivity through innovations.

Dubail Rosa, program officer for Solidaridad said some Honduran companies were already implementing plans to identify and preserve areas of high conservation value.

“They’re working on forest restoration, biodiversity monitoring and the establishment of biological corridors that facilitate the mobility of ocelots, monkeys, and birds in partnership with universities and local and international CSOs. Our hope is that this becomes the rule rather than the exception.”

Colombia has also signed a zero-deforestation commitment for its palm, beef and dairy industries.

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