Oil Palm Plantation Prevent Greater Global Deforestation

The projection of the global vegetable oil demand in the future should be based on the estimates of the world population and the per capita consumption of vegetable oils by 2050. The estimate of the world population based on the medium-term projection of UNPD data on the world population is 9.2 billion people by 20150.

The projected per capita consumption of vegetable oils in the world by 2050 can be made through three scenarios: In the first scenario, the oil is based on the nutritional recommendations of FAO (1994) for edible use and non-edible use (21 kg /capita/year).

In the second scenario, the demand is based on world vegetable oil consumption (food and non-food, other than biofuel) in accordance with the projected average consumption of vegetable oils in India and China, which is expected to reach 25 kg/capita/year by 2050. But the first and second scenarios are less realistic because in developed countries such as the United States and Europe, consumption in 2008 had already reached more than 37 kg/capita/year. Of course, people in developed countries are not willing to reduce their consumption.

And in the third scenario, it is assumed that by 2050, the average consumption of vegetable oil (food and non-food, besides biofuel) in the developing world will match the consumption level in Europe and United States in 2008, which reached 37 kg/capita/year.

The third scenario is based on the assumption that there will be no significant increase in the consumption of vegetable oils in developed countries by 2050.

With the above scenario, the world vegetable oil demand by 2050 is as presented in Table. The increase in the world vegetable oil production by 2050 ranges between 24 million tons and 170 million tons. Toward 2050, it will likely be difficult to further increase the production of other vegetable oils (other than soybean oil and palm oil) from the level recorded in 2014 (fixed production). This means that the world consumption of vegetable oils will be dominated by soybean oil and palm oil.

Table : Projection of the world’s vegetable oil needs and additional new areas toward 2050

Scenario of per capita consumption by 2050 (kg/capita) Demand for vegetable oils in the world by 2050
(million tons)
Increase in production of vegetable oils2014-2050
(million tons)
Additional new areas to meet the increase in demand for vegetable oils by 2050
If only from soybean oil
(million ha)
If only from palm oil
(million Ha)
21 194 24 48 4.8
25 230 60 120 12
37 340 170 340 34

Source: PASPI (2016)

Increasing the production of soybean oil especially through area expansion is still possible in South America as it has been in the past 10 years. Similarly, the expansion of oil palm plantations is still possible in Indonesia as well as in the Central African region.

The question is whether, people will choose to expand the production of soybean oil or palm oil in order to meet the rise in demand. If the world community prefers increasing soybean oil production to meet demand by 2050, it will require​​ 340 million additional hectares of soy plantations in the world (assuming 0.5 tons/hectare productivity). This means, the world community will lose 340 million hectares of forest in South America.
If the world community chooses to increase palm oil production to meet the world vegetable oil demand by 2050, the new area needed will only be about 34 million hectares (assuming 5 tons of oil/hectare productivity).

In other words, increasing the production of palm oil production to meet the demand for vegetable oils by 2050 will require less forest (only 34 million hectares) compared with the new areas needed for the expansion of soybean farming (340 million hectares).

The expansion of the world’s oil palm production will give more benefits to the world than the expansion of soybean plantations. Moreover, palm oil expansion can also prevent greater global deforestation, especially in South America.

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