Where is palm oil from?
Oil palm fruit cut in half to expose the mesocarp.
Palm oil is typically derived from the fruit of a species of palm tree that originated in West Africa. The palm is known as the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis).
Most oil palm today is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the species has been introduced. These two countries accounted for more than 80 percent of production in 2009.
|Rank||Country||2009 Palm oil production (metric tons)|
|6|| Papua New Guinea||500,000|
|7|| Cote d'Ivoire||300,000|
|12|| Costa Rica||210,905|
|13|| Democratic Republic of the Congo||187,000|
Area deforested for oil palm in Sumatra.
Industrial expansion of oil palm plantations accelerated in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. After Indonesia and Malaysia, other major growers of oil palm (in descending order by acreage) are Nigeria, Thailand, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Papua New Guinea, Honduras, and Brazil.
|Country||2009 Oil palm area (ha)|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||179000||1.2%|
|Papua New Guinea||119000||0.8%|
Palm oil is a common cooking ingredient. It is also increasingly used in processed foods as a cheap source of fat.
Palm oil can be used in biodiesel production, but high prices currently limit its use as a biofuel.
Oil palm expansion in recent decades has spurred complaints from environmental groups and conservation scientists who note that plantations have replaced tropical rainforests and peatlands, triggered greenhouse gas emissions and wildlife loss.
Environmental news on palm oil
Gabon convicts environmentalist of defamation in palm oil case
(05/15/2013) An environmental activist in Gabon is facing jail time and a $10,000 fine over his campaign against a Singaporean agroindustrial giant's plan to develop tens of thousands of hectares in oil palm, timber, and rubber plantations in the Central African nation.
Palm oil company violated RSPO standards, evicted from sustainability body
(05/13/2013) The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has evicted Indonesian palm oil giant Dutapalma Nusantara for violating key principles for sustainability.
Indonesian palm oil giant cutting deforestation from supply chain
(05/13/2013) Indonesian palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is continuing to reduce deforestation under its 2011 forest conservation policy despite ongoing forest destruction by other palm oil producers in the sector, finds a new assessment by Greenomics, an Indonesian activist group. However the report finds GAR's operations are not completely deforestation-free.
Court rules for palm oil company in controversial deforestation case
(05/05/2013) Court orders Aceh governor to reverse decision to cancel palm oil concession in protected peatlands. An Indonesian court has ruled in favor of plantation company PT Kallista Alam in a lawsuit brought against the governor of Indonesia’s Aceh province for revoking the company’s license to develop palm oil plantations in a protected peat swamp forest.
What if companies actually had to compensate society for environmental destruction?
(04/29/2013) The environment is a public good. We all share and depend on clean water, a stable atmosphere, and abundant biodiversity for survival, not to mention health and societal well-being. But under our current global economy, industries can often destroy and pollute the environment—degrading public health and communities—without paying adequate compensation to the public good. Economists call this process "externalizing costs," i.e. the cost of environmental degradation in many cases is borne by society, instead of the companies that cause it. A new report from TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity), conducted by Trucost, highlights the scale of the problem: unpriced natural capital (i.e. that which is not taken into account by the global market) was worth $7.3 trillion in 2009, equal to 13 percent of that year's global economic output.