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What Is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is the most iwdely used vegetable oil. It originated from the fruit of African palm oil tree, known as Elaeis guineensis.

Oil palms were first introduced to Southeast Asia by the European traders during the early 19th century, in particular Malaysia and Indonesia. This is due to the suitable humid climate, which makes it suitable for oil palm growth. The palm oil tree can grow to over 20 meters tall and the fruit can be harvested all year round.

Over the last 40 years, there has been an increased in large-scale production on monocultural oil palm plantations due to ever growing global demand.

Why is palm oil so widely used?

Main reason why palm oil is so widely used is because it is applicable in many industries such as food products, detergents or cosmetics. It is found that over 50% of consumer products sold in supermarkets contain palm oil. It can also be used as a biofuel.

Palm oil is also very economically viable as well as sustainable as compared to other vegetable oils. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Using up to 10 times less land as compared to other vegetable oil such as rapeseed or sunflower

  • High yields per hectare - for every 1 hectare of land, 4,000kg palm oil is produced or 500kg of kernel oil

  • Requires less fertiliser and pesticides as compared to other oil crops

  • Stores more carbon compared to other vegetable oils.

Despite the numerous benefits listed, not all production of palm oil is sustainable. In order for the industry to expand, sustainable production of palm oil must be practised. 

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