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Research Report

Managing oil palm landscapes: A seven-country survey of the modern palm oil industry in Southeast Asia, Latin America and West Africa

Lesley Potter
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2015
Pages: 154
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-9)

    The author was commissioned by CIFOR to compile a literature review for a project called Sentinel Landscapes to focus on the impacts of recent oil palm expansion (post-2000) in seven countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Nigeria and Cameroon. The countries under study provide a series of contrasts – in the overall importance of the palm oil industry to the national economy; in palm oil’s contribution via exports to the global supply chain; in the longevity of the industry; and in the production models in use.

    The countries were selected to include the major players in the industry and to...

  2. (pp. 10-27)

    Although the ancestors of the famous Deli Dura oil palm trees were planted in Bogor’s Botanic Gardens in 1848 and their progeny transferred to Sumatra in 1911, it was not until the 1920s that full-scale plantations began to appear in North Sumatra and Aceh. The area reached 31,600 ha in 1925, rising to 92,300 ha by 1938 (Hartley 1977).

    The difficulties of the World War II period and generally unstable conditions in rural areas after the war meant that recovery was slow. The former Dutch estates were nationalized in 1957, while those belonging to other nationalities, such as the Franco-Belgian...

  3. (pp. 28-40)

    Palm oil is Malaysia’s most valuable agricultural crop, with palm oil and palm-based products being the fourth largest contributor to the country’s economy, accounting for 8% of GNI per capita and with annual exports reaching a record value of USD 27 billion in 2011. The industry remains private sector driven and heavily skewed towards upstream activities associated with plantations and mills, with 74% of exports consisting of crude palm oil (CPO), together with palm kernel oil (4.9%) and palm kernel cake (9.2%). Just 9% of exports consisted of processed products such as oleo-chemicals, while biodiesel was a mere 0.2% (Choo...

  4. (pp. 41-59)

    While the African oil palm was introduced to Colombia in 1932, it was only in the late 1940s and early 1950s that it began to be commercialized, initially through the United Fruit Company,72 then through a few local growers (Fedepalma 2001 in Aguilera 2002). Tenera seeds were cultivated for the first time in 1958. Fedepalma, the National Federation of Oil Palm Growers (representing the interests of 80% of the large plantations), was founded in 1962 and has been instrumental in organizing growers and attempting to ensure the progress of the industry. By 1967, with 18,000 ha of mature palms, Fedepalma...

  5. (pp. 60-70)

    The Plan Nacional de Promocion de la Palma Aceitera PERU 2000–2010 (Ministerio de Agricultura 2000) provides some background history of the industry in Peru. Oil palm was first planted at Tochache in the Department of San Martin in the Peruvian Amazon in 1973, following a 1969 French study commissioned by the government, which suggested that San Martin had suitable agroclimatic conditions for the crop. By 1980 the state-owned “pilot plantation” EMDEPALMA, planted at Tonanta in Tochache had grown from the original 200 ha to 5273 ha; its factory was successfully producing more than 5000 t of CPO. But by...

  6. (pp. 71-87)

    As in Peru, the oil palm industry in Brazil is still quite small (only 0.6% of world production),139 but with the potential for considerable growth140. Its recent expansion is largely the result of a government decision to add this oil crop to the country’s existing sources of biodiesel, although soybean remains by far the leading feedstock.141

    Brazil has long been known for its promotion of sugarcane based ethanol, but government interest in developing biodiesel only really began in 2003, following the election of President Lula (Andrade and Miccolis 2010, 7). The National Biodiesel Production and Use Program (PNPB) (which set...

  7. (pp. 88-105)

    The African oil palm Elaeis guineensis is endemic to Nigeria, the wild palms being restricted largely to village groves and open patches of secondary regrowth forest across a swathe of land in the southernmost part of the country. The historical association between oil palm and human habitation in Nigeria goes back several hundred years and predates some modern forests, earlier misclassified as “primary rain forests” (White and Oates 1999).180 The present oil palm belt is largely found in the southern coastal and riverine areas of the South South, South East and South West zones, extending inland for about 1000 km...

  8. (pp. 106-117)

    The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) is endemic to Cameroon as well as Nigeria. The area naturally suited to the tree (in which it may be found growing wild in secondary forests) occupies 53% of the country, mainly in the higher rainfall provinces of the Southwest, Littoral and South. Although 7.2 million ha is cultivable, only 26% of that is actually cultivated (Bakoume and Abdullah 2005). Most of the existing industrial palm oil mills are located close to the coast, which is the highest rainfall area, although, as in Nigeria, a marked dry season still exists. The seasonality of the...

  9. (pp. 118-121)

    The first theme that emerges here is oil palm expansion, its rates and directions. The variations in international prices have certainly played a role. In five of the seven countries, oil palm has experienced rapid expansion since prices began rising in 2006–7 as a result of the “biofuel boom”. The hiatus in 2009 brought about by the global financial crisis did not slow growth for very long and prices in 2010–11 reached exceptional highs. Brazil and Peru were encouraged to promote their existing small industries and in those states and especially in Colombia, incentives have been provided to...