Worldwatch Institute Features 3-Part Series on Palm Oil in Indonesia
Part 1: Global Palm Oil Demand Fueling Deforestation
The benefits of the oil palm are difficult for Indonesia to ignore. Once planted, the tropical tree can produce fruit for more than 30 years, providing much-needed employment for poor rural communities. And its oil is highly lucrative, due largely to the fact that the plant yields more oil per hectare than any major oilseed crop. Indonesia is now the leading supplier for a global market that demands more of the tree’s versatile oil for cooking, cosmetics, and biofuel. But palm oil’s appeal comes with significant costs. READ MORE
Dispersed among Indonesia’s massive oil palm plantations, small farmers are contributing increasingly to the country’s booming palm oil industry. The government has provided substantial subsidies for these farmers – known as smallholders – while mandating that large commercial operations work alongside the small producers. This policy has helped some 1.5 million Indonesians develop nearly half of the country’s oil palm farmland. But surveys of smallholder communities have found that the farmers often struggle to repay the loans issued regularly by large commercial operations. READ MORE
Part 3: Can “Sustainable” Palm Oil Slow Deforestation?
Malaysia-based United Plantations marked the beginning of a new era for the controversial palm oil market last November with its first certified “sustainable” shipment. The purchaser, Unilever, greeted the oil with a welcoming ceremony at the Dutch port of Rotterdam. A refinery in the United Kingdom received the palm oil a few days later, churned it into edible cooking oil, and shipped it to Sainsbury’s, a leading UK grocery chain. Oil palm plantations in Indonesia are also lining up for certification, hoping to demonstrate to buyers that ecologically rich tropical forests were not cleared to grow their crop. READ MORE Palm Oil Sustainability Principles and Criteria