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Top five facts about palm oil that you need to know

Posted: Feb 08, 2022 5 minute read SMART 6208 views

Picture this. You are walking down the cooking oil section in the supermarket and wondering which oil would best serve your family’s nutritional needs—from sunflower, canola, groundnut to palm oil, and the list goes on! How do you decide which cooking oil works for you and your family? Well, this will depend on how much you know about the different types of cooking oils, beyond the few that you are familiar with.

Let’s talk about palm oil. Few seem to know the basic facts about palm oil, let alone the long list of everyday consumables that are made using this highly versatile ingredient—making it even more relevant for us to learn more about it.

browsing the supermarket.
Consumers browsing the supermarket.

1. Palm oil is made from the fruits of oil palm trees, grown in the tropics.

Palm oil is produced from the fruits of oil palm trees. Due to the specific conditions necessary for growing oil palm trees—plenty of sunshine, high temperature and rainfall, it can only be cultivated in tropical regions. The oil is extracted from the loose fruits of the fresh fruit bunches (FFBs). While the flesh of the fruit is used to produce palm oil, the inner seed is refined into palm kernel oil.

The leading producers of palm oil are Indonesia and Malaysia, jointly representing almost 85 percent of global palm oil production.

 fresh fruit bunches
Loose fruits from fresh fruit bunches (FFBs).

2. It is a resource-efficient, healthy and versatile ingredient.

Palm oil is the most resource-efficient vegetable oil. This is because oil palm trees require considerably less land to produce the same yield as compared to other oils. For example, every hectare of land that produces 0.7 tonnes of sunflower oil will be able to produce 3.8 tonnes of palm oil. The same quantity of land can produce more than five times the usual quantity of oil when it’s growing oil palm trees!

Not only is the yield greater but the nutrition content is much higher, in the case of palm oil. It is rich in antioxidants, namely vitamin E, which supports the immune system, prevents heart diseases and lowers the risk of cancer. Versatile and efficient, palm oil is a widely-used vegetable oil and a key ingredient for preparing a range of other products, from cakes to cosmetics.

productive veg oil
A few ways in which palm oil is the most productive vegetable oil. Source: European Commission Report 2018.

3. Palm oil can be produced responsibly, using sustainable farming methods.

Despite its pros, the production of palm oil is infamous for being unsustainable. To clear land for oil palm plantations, forests need to be cut down. This has impacted some local communities and wildlife. And unfortunately, a lot of these forests are often cleared by using unsustainable methods like burning, which increase air pollution and soil erosion.

However, palm oil can be produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Farming can be sustainable if proper regulations and methods are followed for the sustainable cultivation of oil palm trees.

Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is committed to ensuring that palm oil is produced responsibly:

  1. Since 1997, GAR has adopted a No Deforestation and Zero Burning Policy, which allows oil palm trees to be cultivated sustainably without burning forests.
  2. GAR is working towards a more traceable supply chain to ensure that the entire seed-to-shelf journey is followed responsibly and sustainably. In 2021, we successfully implemented 95 percent Traceability to Plantation (TTP), for our entire supply chain. This ensures transparency within the entire supply chain, which supports the adoption of sustainable production practices at the industry level too. We’re still aiming for 100 percent TTP.
  3. GAR has a strict Zero Tolerance Policy towards hunting, injury, possession and killing of rare and endangered species. Under this, we have identified High Conservation Value (HCV) areas and the rare and endangered species within our concessions and surrounding areas and have appropriate protective measures in place to monitor biodiversity across our plantations and concession areas closely.

4. Palm oil is used for making a range of everyday consumables, from cakes to cosmetics.

Palm oil is the most versatile of all the different types of vegetable oil. It can be refined into a wide assortment of products carrying different physical characteristics, melting points and textures. The list includes food, cosmetics, biofuel, pharmaceutical products, and animal feed supplements.

It is most commonly used in pastries such as cakes and biscuits. It also comes in the form of margarine. Unknown to most, it can also be found in cosmetics like lipsticks. Rich in antioxidants (which reduce signs of ageing), palm oil makes an obvious choice for the cosmetics industry. That’s not all. Glycerine derived from palm oil can be used to manufacture pharmaceutical products, mainly cough syrups and oral care products. This multi-faceted ingredient can also be used to produce animal feed supplements.

Crude palm oil is frequently used as biofuel, which could be used to produce electricity. In a nutshell (not literally, in this case), here’s an ingredient that gives the maximum bang for the buck, with little or no unused parts left. That’s minimum wastage.

 5. Palm oil production is expected to increase further.

So, what next? With the rising number of people switching to a healthier plant-based diet, a simultaneous increase in the demand for vegetable-based oils, such as palm oil, is foreseen.

As reported by Oil World, the production of four vegetable oils—palm oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and rapeseed oil is expected to increase by around seven million tonnes in 2022.

Increased palm oil production does not have to result in negative impacts on the planet or people. Increasingly, regulators in Indonesia and customers around the world are demanding sustainably produced palm oil that is traceable to plantation. This focus on how palm oil is grown, encourages better agricultural practices resulting in higher yields per hectare. This enables farmers to grow more on the same area of land, with benefits for forest protection too. And while this growing need for transparency positively impacts farming practices globally, it also allows customers to learn about the real advantages of this otherwise unassuming ingredient.

As a fully integrated business, we can customise safe and high-quality palm oil products. Reach out to find out more. 

If you would like to find out more about GAR’s Products & Services, read here.

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