It was the time of December 1591, when an African voyage ship anchored at the Limehouse harbor in London. Along with some pepper and elephant tusks, it had 32 barrels of Palm oil. This was the day which was believed to be the arrival of the most used, but most controversial, plant product in Europe. Palm oil has many benefits like it has a very good yield and its high saturated fat content. But it is also becoming a topic of concern as it is posing a threat to diversity, with the improper work culture in this industry. In this article, we are going to see ten facts about palm oil so let’s dive in.
Facts About Palm Oil
1. Oil palm contributes to rural development
Oil palm is cultivated in some of the poor rural countries in the tropics. People having free, economically idle land take up this opportunity to earn some extra cash. People who were practicing subsistence agriculture earlier can now earn enough money to fulfill their needs. If we look at an example of Kutai Kartanegara, a district in Indonesia, in the 1990s the change began with the large-scale companies, when they invested huge amounts of money for building and development of processing plants, which promoted the oil palm plantations, in turn, benefitting the plantation workers.
2. Palm oil is high in Saturated Fat
You can easily find about 49 g of saturated fat in 100gms of palm oil. Saturated fat comes under “good” fat which means it lowers the “bad” LDL cholesterol and it doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease. Using palm oil is also beneficial for diabetes which makes it an essential component of our diet. It is one of the important facts about palm oil you should know.
3. Oil palm is one of the most profitable land-use in the tropics
Palm oil today has quite a profitable international market which is supporting millions of small landholders. Last year about 84% of a total of 10M tons of Palm oil produced globally, was exported from tropical countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. So, Palm tree cultivation is producing stable and sustainable income sources to the small cultivators who previously used to have idle lands. Considering the rising trend of consumption of palm oil in the world, this market will take its time to reach the saturation point. So, any farmer or a small-scale producer who wants to enter palm oil cultivation can earn a decent livelihood for his/her family.
4. Oil palm plantations threaten biodiversity
There’s no rose without a thorn. Palm plantations also have a dark side in the form of biodiversity. The extension of palm cultivation is becoming a major reason for deforestation in the present time because of the booming demand for palm oil around the world. It often replaces tropical forests and other species-rich habitats, harming more than 193 threatened species, according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Recently about 10,000 of the 75,000 endangered Bornean Orangutans were found near the Palm cultivation’s allotted area. Some surveys have also shown that about 1250 orangutans were killed in the human-orangutan conflicts which are mainly linked to expanding agriculture.
Image Source: CIFOR
5. Palm cultivation is causing large scale deforestation
Even if we ignore the fact that trees are the major source of oxygen on this planet, we should not forget that they’re also home to almost 90% of animals living on earth. As the rainforests are constantly getting cleared, the survival of animals and indigenous people is getting difficult day by day. Almost 50 percent of natural forest loss is located outside of lands allocated for logging or commercial production. Over the years, large forest areas have been converted into neat rows of palm oil plantations that have led to a backlash against the palm oil industry.
6. Human rights conflict of the Palm industry
Human rights violation is becoming very common in the Palm industry. In Indonesia only, about 5000 cases of land and human rights violation are filed against this industry. Besides land conflicts, violence, child labor, and rape cases too are alarmingly high in this sector. Mainly the rural and isolated plantation farms are used as a place of violence and crimes.
7. Oil palm is better than other vegetable oils.
There is a reason for this increasing demand for palm oil in this world. As mentioned above palm oil has a relatively high saturated fat than other oils. It proved to be a far better replacement for partially hydrogenated (P.H.) oils that were used in Western Europe. P.H. oils also have a certain amount of trans-fatty acids which are considered unhealthy. So, their popularity significantly decreased in the mid-90s giving way to palm oil. Also, the yield of palm oil is higher as compared to other crops.
8. Oil palm is widely used in various products
Palm oil is widely consumed in the world, whether it is in cooking or in the manufacturing of different products from it. By the way, India alone uses 20% of the global palm oil supply, making it the largest palm consumer in this world. Palm oil isn’t directly used in many products, but its derivatives do the work under the alias of Vegetable oil, Vegetable fat, Palm kernel, Palmolein etc. Ranging from shampoos to lipsticks, many household items contain palm oil.
9. The Palm Oil industry ranks among the top four worst industries for forced and child labor
The condition of labor laws in Indonesia is in such a bad condition, that many children are forced to work in the palm industry alongside their parents, for very little or no pay at all. This industry is severely messing with these children’s future as some don’t even attend schools. Some are smuggled across the borders and are left vulnerable to trafficking and sexual abuse. Child labor has always been a dark stain on the face of the palm industry. Though the world is trying to help those children in a number of ways, it can’t seriously improve until their government itself takes some severe actions against it.
Image Source: ILO Asia-Pacific
10. Palm oil development allows easy access for poachers into exposed habitats that have been cleared for plantations.
The forests cleared for the plantation have made many animals homeless, allowing poachers to kill animals for smuggling. The large tracts of land cleared have already made the work of poachers and smugglers quite easy. Animals like tigers and orangutans are especially vulnerable due to habitat loss. It is estimated that the Sumatran tiger population will be extinct in LESS than three years if nothing is done to protect their habitat or combat poaching activities.
These are the 10 facts about palm oil you should know. Kindly share and do post your comments.