Kick-Off Metting held in SpbPU (Saint Petersburg, Russia) successfully finished

30 April 2020

Palm oil’s unique chemistry can also survive the high temperatures involved in cooking, and it’s very resistant to spoilage, bestowing a long shelf life upon products it is in. The oil can also be burned for fuel, as can the palm kernels left over after processing. The shells can be crushed and used to make concrete, and the ash left after burning the palm fibres and kernels can be used as a replacement for cement.

Oil palms are also easy to grow in the tropics and highly profitable for farmers, even in difficult soils, which has seen the area turned over to growing this crop rapidly increase in recent years.

Indonesia and Malaysia alone boast around 13 million hectares of oil palm plantation, almost half the world’s total.

But the rapid expansion of oil palm plantations is blamed for massive deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, and destroying the habitat of endangered native wildlife there, such as the orangutan, and increasing their risk of extinction. Those two nations alone boast around 13 million hectares of oil palm plantation, almost half the world’s total. According to Global Forest Watch, Indonesia lost 25.6 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2018, an area almost as large as New Zealand. (Find out more about the environmental impact that palm oil is having around the world.)

This has put governments and businesses under pressure to find alternatives to palm oil. But replacing a miracle product isn’t easy. Supermarket chain Iceland won praise in 2018 when it announced it would phase out palm oil from all its own-brand products (even releasing a heartrending Christmas advert featuring a homeless orangutan that was banned for being overtly political). Yet removing palm oil from some of the products proved so difficult that in the following year, the company removed its name from the branding instead.

See also