Palm oil

 November 14, 2022

Palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted by hot pressing from the pulp of the fruits of the oil palm, a tree native to tropical Africa from which palm kernel oil is also extracted, extracted from the kernel of its fruits.

Oil palm tree
Crédits : ©Sébastien Noël Licence Unsplash Agrandir la figure 119
Oil palm tree

Image showing an oil palm tree.

Worldwide, 80% of it is used for food, around 10% for cosmetics and derivatives and around 10% for biofuels. At European Union level, it is used at 49% for food and 51% for oleochemicals - one third for cosmetics, and two thirds for biofuels, according to the Agency’s scientific and technical forest committee. development French. However, under the European Commission’s Delegated Regulation dated March 13, 2019, palm oil is considered a raw material with a high risk of indirect land use change. As such, a gradual decline in biofuels produced from palm oil is planned at European level until this raw material is completely eliminated by 2030.

The global palm oil market

The main palm oil producing countries in the world are Indonesia and Malaysia, which in 2018 accounted for 58% and 31% of world production respectively (source United States Department of Agriculture, USDA). Excluding Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, the main palm oil producing countries are Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil in South America and Honduras and Guatemala in Central America.

Global annual production is estimated in 2019 at around 73 million tonnes of palm oil and around 9 million of palm kernel oil, a derivative extracted from the seeds of the oil palm fruit (source USDA). 62% of global palm oil production is exported.

The main consumers of palm oil in the world are China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, member states of the European Union (USDA 2015).

Palm oil and France

Annual imports of palm oil into France vary between 347,000 tonnes and 970,000 tonnes. The uses would be approximately 70% in biofuel, 17% in food and 13% in oleochemicals (excluding biofuel).

However, in 2019, biofuels produced from palm oil represented only 18.5% of the total volumes of biofuels incorporated in France. In addition, since January 1, 2020, palm oil no longer benefits from the tax advantage of the incentive tax relating to the incorporation of biofuels (TIRIB provided for in Article 266 quidecies of the Customs Code). The energy market for palm oil has therefore now dried up in France.

Palm oil and deforestation

Oil palm plantations are directly responsible for approximately 15% of total deforestation measured between 1990 and 2015 in Indonesia and 40% in Malaysia. On a global scale, the role of oil palm in deforestation is much less than in Southeast Asia where the development of plantations has been particularly intense. Between 1990 and 2008, about 2.3% of global deforestation was directly related to oil palm.

Sustainable palm oil

The development of certification standards for sustainable palm oil was initially motivated by the fight against deforestation and for the preservation of biodiversity. Since 2004, there has been the round table for sustainable palm oil (RSPO), a private voluntary certification initiative in which the players in the sector have committed themselves to building and applying sustainability criteria. In Malaysia and Indonesia, government certification standards ISPO (Indonesia) and MSPO (Malaysia) have been developed more recently. At the international level, the ISCC-EU is one of the main international certification systems for the sustainability and quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from bio-based products.

To find out more: Oil palm: inventory of deforestation and sustainability standards (study report by the AFD Forest Scientific and Technical Committee, December 2020)