What’s behind the Palm Oil Boom?

Is it feeding people or cars?

Photo of broken chocolate bar with caramel

Source:© 2012 Istockphoto.com

Scan the ingredients of your favorite candy bar and you’ll likely see an oil listed that, until recently, was rarely used beyond West African and Southeast Asian kitchens. A new IFPRI discussion paper, Revisiting the Palm Oil Boom in Southeast Asia, helps explain why palm oil has recently caught up with soybean oil to become one of the world’s most popular—and controversial—cooking fats.

Belgians introduced Indonesian and Malaysian farmers to palm oil production in the 19th century. Since then, plantations in the two countries have dominated the palm oil market, and in the past 30 years palm oil production has grown ninefold.

“It’s quite clear why farmers are eager to grow oil palms: they are relatively cheap and easy to grow in tropical climates,” said Guillaume Gruère, a senior research fellow at IFPRI who conducted the study with Daniel J. Sanders and Joseph V. Balagtas of Purdue University. “What isn’t clear, however, is why there has been so much demand lately for this oil as opposed to soybean oil, which is also easy and cheap to produce.”

Photo of Workers loading a truck with palm oil fruit

Workers load a truck with palm oil fruit. Source: James Morgan/PANOS

Some environmentalists associate the rise in palm oil plantations with the destruction of tropical rainforests in Indonesia. They tie the increased worldwide demand for biofuels—fuels made from organic materials—to the palm oil boom.

In their exploratory study, however, Sanders, Balagtas, and Gruère found that palm oil prices appear to be more closely influenced by soybean oil prices than fuel prices. Their results suggest that food—not biofuels—is most likely the source of palm oil demand.

In fact, Gruère points to recent US and European policies regulating both trans fats and genetically modified (GM) food as two possible factors behind the palm oil boom. The new policies may have induced such multinational food producers as Nestlé and Unilever to move away from soybean oil in favor of palm oil because it doesn’t produce trans fats and it isn’t made from GM crops.

“Insight from our study,” Gruère said, “which we hope to expand in the future, could help policymakers better understand market linkages and potential unintended policy consequences as they develop new food regulations.”

In This Issue

Building Bigger Dreams

Can we improve people’s well-being by raising their aspirations?

Into the Spotlight

The grain teff has been consumed as a staple in Ethiopia for centuries but is little known outside the country. Now, researchers are training their attention on this understudied crop.

Untangling the Asian Enigma

Although South Asia has the highest concentration of undernutrition in the world, in the past two decades Bangladesh and Nepal have both achieved striking improvements in the nutrition of their citizens. How did they do it?

Does Money Talk?

FEATURE: Millions of poor people around the world are enrolled in safety net programs that hand out cash or food. What’s the best way to design these transfer programs?


  1. Bocock1949 says:

    Is there a negative side to planting palm trees in so far as ruining the land?

  2. sanity medical says:

    Below are some of edible oil and bio diesel oil we have in stock

    Refined Palm Oil

    Refined Sunflower Oil

    Refined Rapeseed Oil

    Refined Soyabeans Oil

    Refined Jatropha Oil

    Used cooking Oil

    Note: Regarding the specifications, adjustment can be made as authorized

    Palm oil Specifications :

    Free Fatty Acid (as Palmitic) ? 0.10% Max

    Moisture + Impurities ? 0.10 % Max ?

    Iodine Value (Wijs Method) 50.0 Min ?

    Cloud Point (Celcius) ? 10.0 Max

    Melting Point (Celcius) 33.0 - 39.0 Max

    Peroxide Value ? (MEQ/KG) ? 1.0 Max ?

    Color (5 quarter Lovibond Cell) ? 3.0 RED Max ?

    Fatty Acid Oil Spec:

    Appearance Liquid

    Iodine value, = 120

    Acid value,130-150

    PH value PH, = 3

    TFM, % = 92

    Moisture,% = 3

    Impurities,% = 3

    Gas chromatography C18:2,% = 40

    Mode of Shipment: Via sea-port

    Delivery Time: 2 - 3 Weeks / 14-21 days

    Sample pet bottles are available for test.
    email me on simoncoox@gmail.com