Palm oil extraction in India: Putting the forests at risk!

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

From every big to small thing, palm oil is present in nearly everything as about 50% in every other market. This Palm oil is a widely used and highly versatile oil in almost every country. This edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees and it’s scientific name is Elaeis guineensis. Palm oil trees are native to Africa but were brought to South-East Asia just over 100 years ago as an ornamental tree crop. Indonesia and Malaysia, also now, make up over 85% of global supply but there are 42 other countries that also produce this oil. It has many different properties and functions which makes it so useful and so widely used.

India is the world’s largest importer of palm oil, driving 23% of total global plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. India imports nearly 15 million tonnes annually of edible oils to meet the country’s annual consumption demand of nearly 22 million tonnes. Out of which the most imported edible oil is palm oil and thus it accounts for 60% or about 9 million tonnes. Due to such high demand rates and profitability factors, palm oil continues to be a major cause of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. These loss of forests multiplied with the conversion of carbon-rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to vulnerable climate change. This must be kept in mind that these factors are also, directly and indirectly, affecting the humans as well without any doubt. These are some of the many serious issues that need special attention and implementation that the whole palm oil sector needs to address because it mustn’t remain this way.

The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nation) report shows that while palm oils lead to deforestation and biodiversity losses, replacing it with another type of vegetable oils might be even worse for the environment. Other oil crops require up to nine times land to produce the same volume of vegetable oil as compared to palm oil. The IUCN report also emphasized that even though palm oil is the most efficient oil crop, it needed to be deforestation-free to halt the destruction of biodiversity in Southeast Asia and other regions where it’s produced. Palm oil production can be carried out more sustainably without damaging the natural ecosystem to a grave extent.

To ensure sustainable palm oil farming, consumer awareness must be kept in mind. Switching to other vegetable oil such as soya bean oil or coconut oil would just shift the problem to other parts of the world and threaten other habitats and species. Therefore, to sustain the palm oil farming certain measure must be taken. The EU is now revising its renewable energy policy, which will remove the incentives for crop-based fuels starting from 2020. It will also phase out the use of palm oil in biodiesel.

Contributed by- Anushka Rathore, Content Writer at Mitti Ke Rang

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