The New Zealand farmer cooperative Ravensown is one of the main importers of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara.
On 8 April 2019, Ravensdown sent the below letter as a response to WSRW's letter to the company of 14 March 2019.
Dear Ms Eyckmans
Thank you for your letter dated 14 March about our import of phosphate rock from the non self governing territory of Western Sahara.
From the arrival at the ports through to the handling and processing at our three manufacturing plants, the quality of phosphate rock determines the environmental impacts and is a key driver in limiting options. Our determination to apply the processed rock in an environmentally considerate way so that the right nutrients go in the right place also is a constraint on our rock blends and selection.
We are not immune to your concerns and have been devoting substantial time and effort into researching additional sources of phosphate rock. But when it comes to NZ manufacture and application, there is currently no alternative that comes without significant environmental impacts, processing costs and miscellaneous supply risks.
As you know, the UN’s framework of managing resources in territories like these is that:
1. The operations should promote economic advancement and provide direct and indirect benefits to the inhabitants of the territory and to the territory itself
2. Working conditions should be non-discriminatory
3. The operations should be conducted rationally and sustainably to ensure long-term access to resources.
As a co-operative on the other side of the world, it’s not our role to try and sift through any claims and counter claims between rival parties locked in a complex geopolitical dispute. Our relationship is with a commercial company and we carry out our due diligence on that supplier based on the UN framework and our own code of conduct and commercial position.
It remains our position that we are trading legally but understand the moral and ethical debate hence our focus on seeking alternatives and additional sources.
I realise that this will probably not satisfy WSRW’s wishes, but wanted to reply to you to let you know that we are taking the issue seriously and doing what we can. Any developments are likely to take time and meanwhile we support the UN process for a lasting and meaningful settlement to this dispute.
If I can help with any further questions, please let me know.
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While other companies internationally have managed to find alternative sources of phosphate - and in spite of a request of the New Zealand government that they do the same - the Kiwi fertilizer industry seems unwilling to drop its imports from occupied Western Sahara.