Palm Oil Plantation: The Most Land-Efficient Vegetable Oil “Factory”

Palm oil plantations are the most land-efficient vegetable oil producer in the world.

The world is getting crowded. The needs for housing, school buildings, offices, shopping centers and others continue to increase both in developing countries and in developed countries. Meanwhile the need for agricultural / plantation production continues to increase due to the increase in population and economic development. The needs for vegetable oils, for example, continues to increase both for food, industrial raw materials (soap, shampoo, detergent, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, etc.), and for biofuels. For this reason, the world community needs to choose a vegetable oil producer that is efficient in the land using, which means that vegetable oil needs can be fulfilled with relatively narrow land.

According to data in 2013, the area of ​​four major vegetable oil producing plants, namely oil palm, soybean, sunflower and rapeseed is around 191 million hectares. Of the four main vegetable oils, soybean oil is the highest ranking of the largest plantation in term of land use, then followed by rapeseed, sunflower and then palm.

The area of ​​soybean plantations is around 110 million hectares or 58 percent of the area of ​​the four world vegetable oil producing plants. With an area of ​​around 58 percent, soybean plantations only produce oil of 47 million tons (31 percent) of the production of the four world’s major vegetable oils. In contrast to oil palm plantations which only have an area of ​​around 19 million hectares or approximately 10 percent, they are capable of producing 62 million tons of soybean oil or 41 percent of the production of the four world’s major vegetable oils.

The high amount of palm oil production can be achieved due to the oil productivity of oil palm plantations which is much higher than the productivity of oil from other vegetable oil producing plants. The productivity of palm oil per hectare is much higher (8-10 times) than the productivity of other vegetable oils. So, with less land, oil palm is able to produce more vegetable oil.

Palm oil productivity per hectare is the highest, causing the share of palm oil in the production of the four world’s major vegetable oils to increase rapidly from 22 percent (1965) to 41 percent (2014). Even though the planted area only increased from 3.6 million hectares (1965) to 17 million hectares (2014); try to compare that with the area of ​​soybean plantations which increased from 25 million to 111 million hectares in the same period.

Thus, it is clear that palm oil is the most efficient vegetable oil in term of land use. Oil palm plantations are the solution to meet the increasing need for world vegetable oil in the face of narrowing land in the future.

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