COVID times and Palm Oil Industry
Last Saturday, on 28th November 2020, I had the privilege of attending a webinar organized by ‘Malaysian Palm Oil Council’ and the agenda of the meet was to dispel some myths around the Palm oil industry. In the past as well, I had attended their offline events. Due to COVID, we all are modifying our ways of staying active on the work front. We have seen and experienced the negative impact of corona on many industries and unfortunately, Palm Oil is one of them.
What is Palm Oil?
It’s an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees; the scientific name is Elaeis guineensis. Two types of oil can be produced; crude palm oil comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil comes from crushing the kernel, or the stone in the middle of the fruit.
Popular myths around Palm Oil
- Palm oil is unhealthy
- Palm oil causes deforestation and is the leading cause of Orang-utan extinction
- Food manufacturers like Palm oil because it’s very, very cheap
Dispelling Myths about Palm Oil
- As mentioned earlier, there are two types of Palm oil. One is red palm fruit oil (called palm oil), which contains 50% saturated fats and the other is fractionated palm oil (called palm kernel oil), which can contain up to 80% saturated fats. High consumption of saturated fats may lead to heart diseases. Though Palm oil has more saturated fats in comparison to other plant oils like olive oil and sunflower oil; one should always remember that optimal consumption of anything is the key to healthy eating. According to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), “Palm oil is mainly used for edible purposes, while palm kernel oil is used for non-edible purposes such as making soaps, cosmetics, and detergents”.
- Malaysia is a developing country that heavily relies on its natural resources for economic development and has honored its pledge made at the Rio Earth Summit 1992 to uphold 50% of its land under forest cover. Recent Malaysian forest hectarage as published in the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2015 report (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) reported that Malaysia currently maintains 22,195,100 ha or 67.6% of its total land area as forest. This is significantly higher than a country like Australia with only 16.2% of its landmass under forest. Malaysia is a country that gives high priority to the conservation of its mega-biodiversity and no single species is left behind. The launch of the revised National Policy on Biological Diversity emphasizes continued conservation by providing direction and framework in conserving the nation’s biodiversity in the face of increasing challenges.
- Palm oil is the most efficient crop in comparison to any other vegetable oil, producing more oil per land area. Hence, it is cheaper and cheap doesn’t mean poor quality and less nutritional value. Globally, palm oil supplies 35% of the world’s vegetable oil demand on just 10% of the land. To get the same amount of alternative oils like soybean or coconut oil you would need anything between 4 and 10 times more land, which would just shift the problem to other parts of the world and threaten other habitats and species. Furthermore, palm oil is an important crop for the GDP of emerging economies and there are millions of smallholder farmers who depend on producing palm oil for their livelihood.
My takeaway from MPOC Google Meet
In my viewpoint, the controversies around Palm oil have been due to its success, and considering Palm oil’s benefits and uses across industries, we should help stop spreading these rumors around this wondrous Palm oil. Malaysia is the second-largest manufacturer of Palm oil after Indonesia is contributing a lot in fulfilling its demand across the world. I hope the issues associated with Palm oil get resolved sooner.