A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) alleges that The CEO of a company listed on the London Stock Exchange, that aims to become the world’s largest producer of cocoa, is responsible for illegally clearing bout 7,000 hectares of rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon.
The Guardian reports: The website for the Cayman Islands-based company, United Cacao, implies the company could be a force for positive change in the chocolate business, mostly produced in West Africa, stating that it “seeks to provide a clear path forward for ethically-produced cacao to the world marketplace”.
But the EIA investigation alleges the company’s founder and CEO, Dennis Melka, has illegally deforested about 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of mostly primary rainforest. It says he is looking to expand his agricultural plantations by acquiring 450 units of rural private property in the Amazon, in addition to requesting at least 96,192 additional hectares of public land from the Peruvian government.
Melka, who made a fortune in the palm oil business in Malaysia, is now listed as the main actor in a network of 25 companies that have been set up in Peru, according to the EIA investigation. Only one registers Melka as an owner but he is listed as the only person with power of attorney for the remaining 24 companies with the Peruvian property registry, Superintendencia Nacional de Registros Públicos (Sunarp).
The forest allegedly cleared by two of Melka’s Peruvian companies adds up to almost 7,000 hectares (ha): 4,870.40 ha in the Nueva Requena project, developed by Plantaciones de Ucayali SAC, in Peru’s eastern Ucayali region, and 2,093.94 ha in Tamshiyacu, developed by Cacao del Perú Norte SAC, in the Loreto region, according to the EIA’s estimates.
The EIA report, Deforestation by Definition, estimates the timber felled in clearing this land would fill 125 Olympic swimming pools. According to the Peruvian minister of agriculture and irrigation, Juan Manuel Benites, neither of the companies had legal authorisation to deforest these areas.