What is Palm Oil?

Palm Oil is an edible vegetable oil used in many of the products on supermarket shelves. It is used in a wide range of products, from margarine and chocolate to ice cream, soaps, cosmetics, and fuel for cars and power plants. Palm Oil is produced from the pulp of the fruits of Oil Palms, which only grow in the tropics. To extract the oil, palm fruits are pressed in Palm Oil mills. Approximately 85% of the world’s Palm Oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, which are the world’s primary exporters of Palm Oil. Oil Palms are grown on both large-scale plantations and small-scale family farms.

What is the difference between Oil Palm and Palm Oil?

Oil Palm is the tree itself, while Palm Oil is the end product; it is the oil, which is produced from the fruit of the palm tree.

Why is Palm Oil so popular?

Oil Palm has many advantages, including:

  • Being the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop, which makes it very efficient. It needs less than half the land required by other crops (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) to produce the same amount of oil. This makes Palm Oil the least expensive vegetable oil in the world.
  • In most Palm Oil-producing countries, including Nigeria, Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador, Papua New Guinea, Ivory Coast and Brazil, Palm Oil trade has the potential to contribute significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction. 
  • Palm Oil is a unique ingredient in many products because it has great cooking properties – it maintains its properties even under high temperatures, its absence of smell makes it a perfect ingredient in many recipes and, it has a natural preservative effect which extends the shelf life of food products.
What are the benefits of Palm Oil?

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil, high in saturated fats, derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree. It is grown commercially in several tropical countries but mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 85% of global palm oil production.

The palm fruit yields two distinct oils – palm oil and palm kernel oil. Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit, is edible and used primarily in food products. Palm kernel oil is extracted from the seed of the fruit and is used mainly in the manufacture of soaps and cosmetics, while palm kernel expeller (PKE) is used as a feed for livestock and as biofuel for generating electricity.

Oil palm is highly productive, capable of yielding more oil from less land than any other vegetable oil, with relatively modest inputs. As a result, palm oil production has become an important source of income and a major part of the economy in the regions where it is grown, providing livelihoods for local communities and helping to lift people out of poverty.

What is the impact of Oil Palm cultivation on the environment?

In some regions, Oil Palm cultivation has caused – and continues to cause – deforestation. This means that land, which was, once predominantly covered by primary forest (forest that has never been touched by man) or which housed protected species and biodiversity, was cleared in order to be converted into Palm Oil plantations. Likewise, some Palm Oil plantations were developed without consulting local communities over the use of their land. Some have even been responsible for forcibly displacing people from their land. Violations of workers’ rights to fair payment and safe working conditions and other malpractices have also occurred.

Would it not be better to replace Palm Oil?

No, replacing Palm Oil is not the right solution to address the environmental and social problems associated with Oil Palm cultivation for two reasons:

  • Replacing Palm Oil with other types of vegetable oil would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce approximately ten times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. This would result in serious environmental damage, with the risk that more forests would need to be converted into agricultural land.
  • In producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the Palm Oil sector. Palm Oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. Stopping the production of Palm Oil altogether would create significant problems and may lead to increased rural poverty.
What is sustainable Palm Oil?

Sustainable Palm Oil is produced according to a set of environmental and social criteria defined by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). These principle and criteria have been in place since 2008 and define the sustainable production of Palm Oil. They ensure that fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, farm workers, small farmers and their families are respected and fully taken into account, and that no new primary forests or high conservation value areas will be cleared for Palm Oil.

What are some of the uses of Palm Oil?

The acceptance of Palm Oil worldwide is due to its unique properties that encourage its use in a wide range of end products. These properties are made more versatile by the various fractions and refined forms that are available in the world market. At present, refined forms that are available in the world market. Refined Palm Oil is suitable for various food-uses.

The four main traditional uses of Palm Oil in food products are for cooking/frying oil, shortenings, and margarine and confectionary fats. Palm Oil is popularly used in both solid fat products as well as in the liquid cooking oil sector especially in industrial frying applications. It offers several technical characteristics desirable in food applications, such as resistance to oxidation, which contributes towards longer shelf life of end products. 

What products can be made from Oil Palm?

Besides the oil, there are huge amounts of Oil Palm wastes such as Oil Palm shells and empty fruit bunches (from the mills) and Oil Palm trunks (from the field during replanting) being generated by the industry. This Oil Palm biomass can be a raw material for many products such as medium density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, pulp and paper, plastic composites, bio-compost and it is also used for bio-energy. The Oil Palm biomass can be a good alternative to replace wood in many applications.

Since Oil Palm farms are measured in Hectares? What exactly is a hectare?

One of the least known metric units – and one, which journalists and the average person struggles with, is the hectare. One hectare is 100 Square Meters, basically a perfect square consisting of 90-degree angles 100 meters apart. In terms of sports fields this make a hectare slightly smaller than a football (Soccer) field. There are roughly 2.5 acres in a hectare.

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