Row between Peru and UK-listed cacao company turns bitter amid calls for trading halt
By Chris Arsenault
RIO DE JANEIRO, June 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A row between the Peru government and a UK-listed cacao producer accused of illegally destroying Amazon rainforest has prompted land rights campaigners to call for the removal of the company from trading on the London stock exchange.
United Cacao Ltd is seeking to become the world's largest single producer of cacao through its plantations in northern Peru, billing itself as a leading ethical producer both in labour and environmental terms.
However Peru's forestry ministry, SERFOR, says the Cayman Islands registered company company does not have approved certification for its plantations that span several thousand hectares in the Iquitos region by the Amazon.
But the company says its Peruvian subsidiary, Cacao del Peru Norte, is in compliance with all Peruvian laws, operating on freehold land zoned for full agricultural purposes by the relevant national authorities.
The competing claims have promoted an investigation by the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market, that allows smaller companies to raise capital for expansion, amid calls for trading in United Cacao to be suspended.
"This case is important for Peru but it's time for stock exchange authorities to start taking interest in the impact of these companies around the world," said Julia Urrunaga, from the Environmental Investigation Agency, a campaign group which has been following the case.
"Companies doing illegal operations should not be raising money in Europe," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Lima, Peru's capital.
The row dates back to 2013 when the company submitted details for environmental reporting documentation requested by authorities querying its agricultural activities. Continuación...