(PT Darma Agro Lestari)
Astra Agro Lestari is an oil palm plantation operator majority owned by a British company. It has become the latest company to join the sugar rush in Merauke.
Last updated 07/08/2013
Company Description: Astra Agro Lestari is a plantations business which is part of Astra International Group. While Astra International is a diversified group notably involved in motor vehicles, Astra Agro Lestari has exclusively focussed on oil palm. In Merauke the company is making its first attempt to become a sugar producer.
Owned by: Astra Agro Lestari is listed on the Indonesian Stock Exchange, although Astra International owns 79.7% of the stock. In turn, a majority (50.11%) of Astra International is owned by Jardine Matheson Holdings Limited, a British company based in Hong Kong, the remaining shares also being traded on the Indonesian Stock Exchange.
Plans for Merauke: With an aging stock of oil palm plantations and land for new oil palm increasingly hard to come by, Astra Agro Lestari has anounced its plan to diversify into sugar-cane production in Papua.1 A company linked to Astra, PT Darma Agro Lestari, has been surveying land on the former concession of PT Digul Agro Lestari in Tubang district. That concession was for a 40,000 hectare plantation, but in media interviews about their plantation Astra spokespeople commonly refer to 20,000 hectares. AwasMIFEE has not yet seen the permits Merauke Regency Administration have issued.
News from the Ground: Local people report that Astra has set up camp in Kampung Welbuti. They did not ask to stay, they just moved in. Astra is trying to win local people over with offers of health and education services. They have brought schoolteachers with them, but local people feel that the teachers look suspiciously like Kopassus special forces officers.
There has been a fierce rejection of corporate investment in Tubang and Ilwayab districts. Most villages now display notices that the people refuse to sell their land, and traditional ‘sasih’ markers forbidding entry. It is believed that if anyone does accept the company’s cash then he will be mercilessly punished by other community members. A statement from the Forum of people and intellectuals of the Marind Woyu Maklew sub-ethnic group (FORMASI SSUMAWOMA) recounts decisions made at several adat meetings in the area, and outlines reasons for the people’s refusal.2
Other conflicts in West Papua and Indonesia: This is not the first time that Astra has ventured into the Merauke area. In the late 1980s it became involved in a joint venture with Scott Paper for a giant pulp plantation. Astra pulled out in 1992 because of financial problems.3
In recent years, the most notorious case involving Astra was in the Tripa peat swamps in Aceh where Astra subsidiary PT Kallista Alam continued to illegally burn forest in one of the few remaining habitats for Sumatran orangutans, around 100 of which are believed to have burned to death in the fire. The Aceh governor gave the permission despite the area being clearly covered by Indonesia’s forestry moratorium. Six months later, the area was excised from the moratorium map. After a huge outcry, PT Kallista Alam’s license was eventually revoked.4
Address: PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk
Jl. Puloayang Raya Blok OR1
Kawasan Industri Pulogadung, Jakarta 13930