Palm Oil

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Palm Oil refers to oil from the African Oil Palm. There are two separate oils derived from the African oil palm, each with unique properties and uses, palm oil (made from the fruit) and palm kernel oil (made from the seed). This article covers both oils. According to Rainforest Action Network:[1]

"Palm oil is a globally traded agricultural commodity that is used in 50 percent of all consumer goods, from soaps and detergents to breakfast cereals and biofuels. Grown on massive plantations in tropical nations, mainly Malaysia and Indonesia, palm oil has been associated with rainforest destruction; threatened extinctions of animals, including orangutans; huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions; and gross human rights and labor violations."

Together, Indonesia and Malaysia produce 85 percent of the world's palm oil.[2] As of 2007, 14 million hectares were under oil palm cultivation globally.[3] In 2010, the World Bank estimated that another 10 to 20 million hectares will "be needed to meet oil palm demand for the next decade and beyond."[4] According to the same report, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil certifies palm oil that meets criteria of respecting local land rights and avoiding plantings that "replace primary forest or any area containing one or more High Conservation Values" but "only 1.6 million tons (4 percent of global production) was certified by April 2009, and demand for certified oil has been slow to develop."

Deforestation Due to Palm Oil

Palm oil plantations are a major driver of deforestation, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. For more information, see the article on Palm Oil Production in Indonesia.

In a 2010 report, the World Bank said:

"With expected further increases in palm oil demand, directing plantation expansion away from standing forest toward degraded grassland areas will be important. Estimates suggest that the area available under these degraded areas is at least double what is needed to satisfy increased demand over the next decade. A number of economically viable options to use these areas are available, most importantly the use of payments for environmental services and REDD (United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) to improve incentives for establishing oil palm on degraded rather than forest land. Applying these mechanisms successfully, however, requires that the rights of existing occupants on degraded lands be identified and compensated."[5]

Case Studies

For case studies from Indonesia, see the article Palm Oil Production in Indonesia.

Cargill in Papua New Guinea

[6] [7] [8] [9]

Uses of Palm Oil and Palm Kernel Oil

Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies

One of the most infamous food that contains palm oil are Girl Scout cookies. Project O.R.A.N.G.S. (Orangutans Really Appreciate And Need Girl Scouts) began when two 11-year-old Girl Scouts from Michigan, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, began a project about saving the orangutan to earn their Bronze Awards and learned about the habitat loss orangutans suffer due to palm oil plantations.[10] The girls then realized that palm oil was an ingredient in Girl Scout Cookies, and began a campaign to convince Girl Scouts USA to remove palm oil from the cookies. The girls partnered with Rainforest Action Network and the Union of Concerned Scientists. They even got their hero, Jane Goodall, to sign onto their efforts. After five years of campaigning, the girls achieved a partial victory, with a statement from the Girl Scouts, promising:

"The Girl Scouts said it has directed its bakers to use as little palm oil as possible, and only in recipes where there is no alternative. It wants its bakers to move to a segregated, certified sustainable palm oil source by 2015.
"The Scouts will buy GreenPalm certificates to support the sustainable production of palm oil. The certificates offer a premium price to palm oil producers who are operating within best-practices guidelines set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, an organization of palm oil producers, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, environmentalists and others."[11]

Names for Palm Oil in Foods and Other Products

Palm oil may appear on ingredient lists under any of the following names:[12]

  • Palm Kernel Oil
  • Palm Kernel Oil fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin; Palm Kernel Olein
  • Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • Fractionated Palm Oil
  • Organic Palm Kernel Oil
  • Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate (NOTE: Vitamin A Palmitate is a very common ingredient in breakfast cereals)
  • Palmate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
  • Sodium dodecyl Sulphate
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Stearic Acid
  • Steareth -2
  • Steareth -20
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
  • Hydrated palm glycerides
  • Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
  • Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (names with palmitate at the end are usually derived from palm oil, but as in the case of Vitamin A Palmitate, very rarely a company will use a different vegetable oil)

Global Production and Trade

According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council:[13]

"An average of 3.7 tonnes of palm oil, 0.4 tonnes of palm kernel oil and 0.6 tonnes of palm kernel cake is obtainable from one hectare of land. While the first two products can be used for human consumption, such as cooking oil, margarines, shortenings, bakery fats, vanaspati, ice creams and Vitamin E, and other products, palm kernel cake is used as an animal feed."

Thus, for every tonne of palm oil produced, only 0.11 tonnes of palm kernel oil are produced. The U.S. is only the seventh largest importer of palm oil in the world, but it is the second largest importer of palm kernel oil, making it the world's third largest driver of expansion of oil palm plantations after China and India. Assuming the yield numbers provided by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council above:

  • Chinese imports in 2009 required 1,780,203.2 hectares (4,397,102 acres) of oil palm plantations
  • Indian imports in 2009 required 1,649,281.1 hectares (4,073,724.3 acres) of oil palm plantations
  • U.S. imports in 2009 required 780,772.5 hectares (1,928,508 acres) of oil palm plantations

Palm Oil

Production Statistics

As of 2009, top producers of palm oil were as follows:[14]

  • 1. Indonesia, 20,550,000 metric tons
  • 2. Malaysia, 17,564,900 metric tons
  • 3. Nigeria, 1,380,000 metric tons
  • 4. Thailand, 1,310,000 metric tons
  • 5. Colombia, 802,400 metric tons
  • 6. Papua New Guinea, 470,000 metric tons
  • 7. Côte d'Ivoire, 325,000 metric tons
  • 8. Ecuador, 321000 metric tons
  • 9. Honduras, 290,000 metric tons
  • 10. Brazil, 265,000 metric tons
  • 11. China, 230,000 metric tons
  • 12. Costa Rica, 190,757 metric tons
  • 13. Democratic Republic of the Congo, 185,000 metric tons
  • 14. Cameroon, 182,000 metric tons
  • 15. Guatemala, 180,000 metric tons
  • 16. Ghana, 130,000 metric tons
  • 17. Philippines, 90,000 metric tons
  • 18. Venezuela, 82,200 metric tons
  • 19. Mexico, 65,000 metric tons
  • 20. Angola, 55,000 metric tons

This represents an enormous increase in production in just 10 years, as the top producer Indonesia grew from producing 6,011,300 metric tons of palm oil in 1999 to 20,550,000 in 2009, a 240% increase, and the second biggest producer, Malaysia, grew from producing 10,553,900 metric tons in 1999 to 17,564,900 in 2009, an increase of nearly two-thirds.[15]

Export Statistics

As of 2009, the top exporters of palm oil were:[16]

  • 1. Indonesia: 16,829,200 tonnes (82% of palm oil produced in Indonesia)
  • 2. Malaysia: 13,924,400 tonnes (79.3% of palm oil produced in Malaysia)
  • 3. Netherlands: 1,310,770 tonnes (64.8% of palm oil imported to the Netherlands)
  • 4. Papua New Guinea: 487,433 tonnes (96.4% of palm oil produced in Papua New Guinea)
  • 5. Benin: 215,000 tonnes (86.3% of palm oil imported into Benin)
  • 6. Colombia: 214,283 tonnes (26.7% of palm oil produced in Colombia)
  • 7. Singapore: 201,754 tonnes (60% of palm oil imported into Singapore)
  • 8. Côte d'Ivoire: 191,379 tonnes (58.9% of palm oil produced in Côte d'Ivoire)
  • 9. Germany: 188,110 tonnes (14% of palm oil imported into Germany)
  • 10. Ecuador: 185,536 tonnes (57.8% of palm oil produced by Ecuador)

Import Statistics

As of 2009, the top importers of palm oil were as follows:[17]

  • 1. China: 6,586,752 tonnes
  • 2. India: 6,102,340 tonnes
  • 3. Netherlands: 2,024,250 tonnes
  • 4. Pakistan: 1,773,580 tonnes
  • 5. Germany: 1,339,340 tonnes
  • 6. Malaysia: 1,090,280 tonnes
  • 7. United States of America: 979,009 tonnes
  • 8. Italy: 970,051 tonnes
  • 9. Bangladesh: 867,000 tonnes
  • 10. Nigeria: 720,000 tonnes

Palm Kernel Oil

Production Statistics

As of 2009, ranked by quantity of palm kernels (NOT palm kernel oil) produced:[18]

  • 1. Indonesia: 5,160,000 tonnes
  • 2. Malaysia: 4,504,000 tonnes
  • 3. Nigeria: 1,324,680 tonnes
  • 4. Thailand: 300,000 tonnes
  • 5. Brazil: 180,000 tonnes
  • 6. Colombia: 134,160 tonnes
  • 7. Guatemala: 123,330 tonnes
  • 8. Papua New Guinea: 107000 tonnes
  • 9. Ecuador: 105,000 tonnes
  • 10. Cameroon: 85,000 tonnes

Processing Statistics

As of 2009, ranked by quantity of palm kernel oil produced:[19]

  • 1. Indonesia: 2,282,900 tonnes
  • 2. Malaysia: 2,097,100 tonnes
  • 3. Nigeria: 616,713 tonnes
  • 4. Thailand: 124,500 tonnes
  • 5. Brazil: 101,000 tonnes
  • 6. Colombia: 60,372 tonnes
  • 7. Guatemala: 55,499 tonnes
  • 8. Papua New Guinea: 43,000 tones
  • 9. Ecuador: 37,800 tonnes
  • 10. Honduras: 34900 tonnes

Export Statistics

As of 2009, ranked by quantity of palm kernel oil exported:[20]

  • 1. Indonesia: 1,703,260 tonnes
  • 2. Malaysia: 840,659 tonnes
  • 3. Netherlands: 69,967 tonnes
  • 4. Papua New Guinea: 35,000 tonnes
  • 5. Colombia: 33,872 tonnes
  • 6. Thailand: 31,695 tonnes
  • 7.Côte d'Ivoire: 13,822 tonnes
  • 8. Costa Rica: 13,346 tonnes
  • 9. Guatemala: 12,049 tonnes
  • 10. Ecuador: 10,709 tonnes

Import Statistics

As of 2009, ranked by quantity of palm kernel oil imported:[21]

  • 1. China: 513,023 tonnes
  • 2. United States: 312,309 tonnes
  • 3. Germany: 301,383 tonnes
  • 4. Malaysia: 262,743 tonnes
  • 5. India: 242,869 tonnes
  • 6. Netherlands: 172,599 tonnes
  • 7. Brazil: 132,027 tonnes
  • 8. Turkey: 111,256 tonnes
  • 9. Japan: 84,159 tonnes
  • 10. Mexico: 67,621 tonnes

Resources and Articles

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Palm Oil, Rainforest Action Network, Accessed September 26, 2011.
  2. Klaus Deininger and Derek Byerlee with Jonathan Lindsay, Andrew Norton, Harris Selod, and Mercedes Stickler, "Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?," World Bank, September 7, 2010, p. 20.
  3. Klaus Deininger and Derek Byerlee with Jonathan Lindsay, Andrew Norton, Harris Selod, and Mercedes Stickler, "Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?," World Bank, September 7, 2010, p. 12.
  4. Klaus Deininger and Derek Byerlee with Jonathan Lindsay, Andrew Norton, Harris Selod, and Mercedes Stickler, "Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?," World Bank, September 7, 2010, p. 21.
  5. Klaus Deininger and Derek Byerlee with Jonathan Lindsay, Andrew Norton, Harris Selod, and Mercedes Stickler, "Rising Global Interest in Farmland: Can It Yield Sustainable and Equitable Benefits?," World Bank, September 7, 2010, p. xxx.
  6. Commodity Colonialism: A Case Study of Cargill's Palm Oil Operations in Papua New Guinea, Rainforest Action Network, Accessed October 18, 2011.
  7. Rhett A. Butler, "Palm oil developers in Papua New Guinea accused of deception in dealing with communities," Mongabay.com, September 25, 2009, Accessed October 18, 2011.
  8. David Gilbert, Matilda Pilacapio, Environmental Rights Advocate from Papua New Guinea," September 28, 2009.
  9. David Gilbert, "Cargill leaves a palm oil mess in Papua New Guinea," February 24, 2010, Accessed October 18, 2011.
  10. "Are Girl Scout cookies bad for the environment?," CBS News, May 24, 2011, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  11. James Eng, "Girl Scouts pledge to limit palm-oil use in cookies," MSNBC, September 29, 2011, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  12. Ashley Schaeffer, Palm Oil’s Dirty Secret: The Many Ingredient Names For Palm Oil, Rainforest Action Network, September 22, 2011, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  13. What Is Palm Oil, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  14. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed September 26, 2011.
  15. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed September 26, 2011.
  16. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  17. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  18. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  19. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  20. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed October 12, 2011.
  21. FAOSTAT, FAO, Accessed October 12, 2011.

External resources

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