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Palm oil: why do we care more about orangutans than migrant workers?

November 9, 2015

Palm oil: why do we care more about orangutans than migrant workers?

Laura Villadiego
Monday 9 November 2015 11.25 GMT

The thick haze that has covered vast parts of south-east Asia in recent months has put the ecological impact of the palm oil industry back in the spotlight, but the ongoing issue of tough working conditions for plantation workers remains shrouded behind a veil of silence.

When the Dutch introduced the first palm oil trees on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in the 19th century, they also brought migrants from India and China to cultivate the plantations.

Today, Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia account for about 85% of the global production of palm oil and employ as many as 3.5 million workers to maintain plantations and harvest the most traded oil in the world.

The palm oil industry would not be possible without migrant labour. This is the conclusion of Pablo Pacheco, principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research, who points out that the palm oil industry in turn has promoted a “migrant flux”.

Read more at The Guardian.

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