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Paper giant accused of masking deforestation

ECOLOGICAL watchdog the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) said today it was suspending a bid by the Asia Pulp and Paper wing of corporate paper giant Sinarmas to be readmitted.

The group said it was awaiting clarification of “its corporate structure and alleged unacceptable forest management activities,” following reports the firm disguised subsidiaries as independent suppliers to help it mask its role in deforestation.

FSC approval allows paper producers to display its mark on their merchandise, certifying the product as sustainable. Paper thus marked can be sold at higher prices and is significant in access to the US market.

Sinarmas denies wrongdoing and says it has hired a firm to carry out an assessment of all industrial forest plantation companies in Indonesia.

But investigators have reported ties between it and companies involved in cutting down tropical forest in Borneo that provided a habitat for critically endangered orangutans, prompting Greenpeace to cut ties with the firm.

Conservationists published findings on Wednesday showing Asia Pulp and Paper was purchasing wood from plantation companies that have cleared 32,000 hectares of natural forest in the last five years.

The wood was plantation-grown but came from land reclaimed from the forest. It levelled similar charges at another Indonesian firm, Asia Pacific Resources International (April).

The Sinarmas firm said it had quarantined 800 lorryloads of wood from improper sources bought in an “administrative lapse,” while April said its conservation assessments showed the forest being cut down was not of “high conservation value.”

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