Palm oil is the most widely-used vegetable oil in the world. It is found in approximately 60% of all packaged products in supermarkets today. It plays a significant role in the production of various items, such as cookies, where it ensures a deliciously crispy and crunchy texture. Additionally, palm oil is a key ingredient in margarine, providing a smooth and spreadable consistency.
Palm oil is squeezed from the fruits of the oil palm tree (Elaeis Guineensis). Oil palm trees grow in regions around the equator. The oil palm is a tropical tree with leaves about 5 meters long. What the tree loves above all, is sun and humidity. It thrives on plenty of sunshine, temperatures ranging between 24 and 32 degrees centigrade and rainfall evenly distributed throughout the year.
Where does palm oil come from?
When the oil palm trees are three to four years old, they develop palm fruit in bunches. The fruit bunches are harvested throughout the year. Each bunch contains hundreds of palm fruits. Palm fruits are about the size of large olives. The oil is pressed from the orange pulp of the fruit. Each palm fruit contains about 30-35 per cent palm oil. The fruit has a single seed or kernel, which is used to produce palm kernel oil.
Where is palm oil grown?
The most suitable areas for cultivation are located between ten degrees north and south from the equator. Originally found in West Africa, the oil palm tree is now mostly cultivated in Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s largest palm oil-producing nations. Indonesia and Malaysia supply 85 per cent of the palm oil used globally. Apart from Indonesia and Malaysia there is an increase in palm oil production in other parts of the world including South and Central America, Thailand and Western Africa.
Why do we use palm oil?
One palm tree produces 40 kilograms of oil every year. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) palm oil is important for global food security and economic development. According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil palm oil production employs and supports more than seven million plantation workers, smallholders and their families. Palm oil production is an important natural resource in these areas of the world with struggling economies.
The downside of Palm Oil
Unsustainable agricultural practices across different crops, such as palm oil, can contribute to climate change, deforestation, and put wildlife at risk. They can also lead to land ownership disputes and undermine workers’ rights. However, amidst these far-reaching negative consequences, sustainable production of palm oil emerges as a crucial component of the solution.
Sustainable Produced Palm Oil As A Solution
Palm oil accounts for around 35% of all vegetable oils consumed globally, while requiring only 10% of the agricultural land intended for oil production. Compared to other crops, oil palm delivers a remarkably high yield per hectare. This high productivity, coupled with its multifunctionality, makes it challenging to replace palm oil with alternative oils without compromising quality. Therefore sustainable produced palm oil is the best alternative to conventional palm oil. RSPO has developed a standard for sustainable palm oil: the RSPO Principles and Criteria. This way, sustainable production and trade of palm oil can be guaranteed.