Developed Countries Try to Creating Synthetic Palm Oil to Compete with The Authentic One
Palm oil has become the primadonna because of its superior characteristics such as rich and balanced nutritional content, stability at high temperatures, and relatively competitive prices so that it becomes a versatile raw material where the application to a derivative product is very wide. Almost all consumer goods in supermarket aisles ranging from food products such as cooking oil, biscuits, chocolate; various kinds of toiletries and personal care products such as soap, shampoo, makeup, skincare; to energy products that low-emission and eco-friendly. This means that for 24 hours, from waking up to going back to sleep, consumers around the world is consuming palm oil.
This has made palm oil win by successfully shifting the dominance of soybean oil, which has dominated the vegetable oil market for a century. Currently, share’s of palm oil in the global vegetable oil market about 45 percent. Corley’s research (2009) also states that along with the increase in population and consumption per capita will increase demand of global vegetable oil reach 240 million tons in 2050, and most of the vegetable oil consumed is palm oil. It is even estimated that palm oil consumption in 2050 will reach 120-156 million tons. This shows that the dominance of palm oil will continue in the future.
The large consumption of palm oil in the global market is also a threat to other vegetable oils. The various characteristic advantages possessed by palm oil are difficult to beat by other vegetable oils so that anti-palm oil parties (NGOs affiliated with other vegetable oil-producer countries) carry out various “dirty” methods such as black campaigns using environmental issues, social issues, and health issues to hinder the trade of palm oil on the global market. However, the issue of the black campaign has now been disputed by using valid research results.
If these methods (black campaigns and policies to discriminate against palm oil) continue to be used, then the trade competition between palm oil and other vegetable oils will always be like “changing wickets” or not ending. Therefore, today many developed countries provide a fund for research and invest in start-up that develop synthetic vegetable oils with characteristics similar to palm oil, with the goals to replacing or substituting the role of palm oil.
One of them is the Breakthrough Energy Ventures company led by Bill Gates. This US company is currently developing research to produce synthetic palm oil, through investing of USD 20 million in a start-up called C16 Biosciences. This start-up that able to produce synthetic palm oil using exclusive yeast which is fed with food waste containing carbon from supermarkets and homes or industrial by-products such as glycerol from the biodiesel/biofuel industry. In addition from Bill Gates’s company, the start-up also received investment funds from other investors such as Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Richard Branson (Virgin Group), and Michael Bloomberg.
Besides the C16, there is another start-up, namely California Kiverdi Inc. which uses microbes to convert carbon dioxide into an alternative to palm oil. Revive Eco, a start-up from Scotland, also extracts coffe waste to produce oil as an alternative to palm oil. There is also a start-up from Indonesia, Biteback, which invented alternative palm oil from insects.
Dr. Ir. Purwayitno Hariyadi, PhD, revealed that research to produce natural materials in a laboratory has been carried out for a long time and related to laboratory research to produce synthetic palm oil has been developed since 2015. Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Nuri Andarwulan, M.Si, as Director of SEAFAST, said that the chemical characteristics contained in palm oil have not been matched because the fraction is very rich in micronutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E, tocotrienols, and sitosterols, so to produce microbes that resemble palm oil still needs research which more costly and requires a long process.
What is being done by these developed countries to produce synthetic oil that can compete and substitute palm oil, or black campaigns, and other discrimination against palm oil, are efforts to block the superiority of palm oil in the global food sector until energy sector. These developed countries do not want Indonesia, Malaysia, and palm oil-producer countries, which are developing countries, will succeed in controlling global food and energy sector, so that they can control the world.
In line with this, the American politican and diplomat, Henry Kissinger, has also made a speech and said that “Control oil and you control nations, control food and you control the people”, and this speech has become the political economy paradigm of the United States until this day.
So, what should Indonesia, as the world’s largest palm oil producer do, to face various black campaigns, crop-apartheid policies that discriminate against palm oil, and research on synthetic oil that resembles palm oil?. The dynamics of the global market and trade competition must serve as a challenge for the national palm oil industry to maintain its existence, sustainability, and competitiveness in the global market. This can be achieved through three main strategies, namely intensification (increasing productivity), developing the downstreaming, and improving governance, including strengthening palm oil research and adoption/dissemination of this inovation research.
Share this article
You may also like these articles