Palm Oil, What’s The Issue?
Palm oil is literally everywhere you look, it can be found in the majority of products we all use on a daily basis; from confectionery, baking goods, cosmetics and toiletries to cleaning agents and fuel, to name but a few.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of certain palms. Originally, these palm trees came from west and southwest Africa, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were introduced to Indonesia and Malaysia; areas where there is an abundance of hot weather mixed with high rainfall levels.
Tens of millions of tonnes of palm oil is produced every single year, which accounts for over a third of the world’s vegetable oil production. Palm trees are a very land efficient commodity; they can produce 4-10 times more oil per hectare of land than any other oil crop.
Currently almost 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia’s oil palm plantations already expand over nine million hectares and that figure is estimated to rise to a massive 26 million hectares by 2025.
However, the environmental impact of using palm oil is now a topical debate. Deforestation is one of the major concerns; research shows that today, rainforest areas the equivalent of 300 football fields are being bulldozed and set alight every hour to plant more palm trees. Thus a huge amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere and consequently, Indonesia is the world’s fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Also along with the increased deforestation brings problems for local inhabitants, nature and endangered species.
Obviously industry manufacturers are at an economical advantage as palm oil is cheap and versatile. Plus more than 3 million smallholders and small-scale farmers make a living from palm oil globally, but the environmental factors need to be addressed before it’s too late.
Food retail giant Iceland has this month pledged that it would remove all palm oil from its own branded products by the close of 2018; it is the first major supermarket to ban the oil. “Until such a time as there is genuinely sustainable palm oil that contains zero deforestation, we are saying no to palm oil,” explained Iceland managing director Richard Walker.
Co-op has also moved into using palm oil, which is certified as sustainable according to the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). However, not all supermarkets are taking the same steps; according to RSPO, Tesco uses 16,000 tonnes of palm oil in it’s own branded products per year and Sainsbury uses 10,000 tonnes.
Figures show that the use of palm oil will keep rising over time, however the good news is that European Parliament recently called for an EU scheme to make sure only sustainable palm oil enters the EU market.
At www.ragus.co.uk we are fully aware of the social, environmental and ethical impacts when sourcing our specialized products and are constantly interested in all aspects of the food and drink industry from sourcing to manufacturing in order to keep up to date with the latest industry news and trends.