“Palm Oil Free” Causes Global Deforestation is Getting Bigger
In the last twenty years, anti-palm oil NGOs have become more active in spreading the “Palm Oil Free” campaign against palm oil. Various issues such as the environment, health, and social are used to makes the image of palm oil will sink in the global consumers.
Not only conducting campaigns, for example, anti-palm oil NGOs in Europe also force and put pressure on global manufacturing industries that produce food products (biscuits, chocolate, jam, instant noodles), cosmetics (makeup, shampoo, soap) to animal feed to put labels on Palm Oil Free on product packaging. This movement is also prevalent in products that are marketed in Indonesia. This shows that the Palm Oil Free movement is more massive and it’s spreading systematically to influence global consumers not to consume palm oil-based products.
The anti-palm oil NGO and its networks around the world argue that one of the goals behind the Palm Oil Free campaign is to protect the global forests and reduce global deforestation. Whereas in various discussions has been explained that their real purpose is to inhibit the palm oil in the global market (crop-apartheid) and also as a form of protectionism against this vegetable oil’s competitors, namely soybean oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower seed oil.
Again, deforestation has become an issue linked with palm oil. Anti-palm oil NGOs are screams every day saying that oil palm plantations are the cause of global deforestation. This issue has also inspired trade policy in importing countries to inhibit palm oil, such as the European Union’s policy namely European Green Deal which includes Renewable Energy Directives, Indirect Land Use Change, and Forest and Ecosystem Risk Commodities.
The alleged issue is very contradictory to empirical data and facts that show the livestock sector is the main driver of global deforestation, not oil palm plantations. Although this issue has been resolved, it has not been able to dispel the massive of the “Palm Oil Free” campaign. In fact, this campaign has targeted all age groups from children to adults. This raises the question of what happens if the global community supports NGOs for the “Palm Oil Free” campaign and is it true that global deforestation will stop if palm oil consumption is reduced or stopped?
Before answering this question, first, we must find out which of among the top-4 vegetable oils are the most land-efficient and land-intensive to produce one ton of oil. Based on data from Oil World (2018), the productivity of palm oil (CPO + CPKO) reaches 4.3 tons per hectare. Meanwhile, the productivity of rapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil, and soybean oil were 0.7 tons per hectare, 0.52 tons per hectare, and 0.45 tons per hectare, respectively.
This shows that the productivity of palm oil is almost 6-10 times higher than the productivity of other vegetable oils. This means that oil palm is classified as a land-saving vegetable oil crop. Meanwhile, the lowest soybean oil productivity implies that a large land is needed to produce the same volume of vegetable oil, so soybean is a land-waste vegetable oil crop that potentially caused deforestation. This is confirmed by a European Commission study (2013) which says that soybeans are one of the main drivers of global deforestation, contributing 6 percent to deforestation in 1990-2008.
Based on USDA data (2021), due to high palm oil productivity, it makes a global palm oil plantation area only of 24 million hectares able to produce palm oil with a volume of 83.5 million tons. When compared with the area of soybean which reached 127 million hectares and the volume of soybean oil produced is only 58.7 million tons. Likewise, the rapeseed crops with a crops area of 35.5 million hectares are only able to produce a volume of 27.3 million tons of rapeseed oil. The same thing also happened to sunflower with a plantation area of 27.6 million hectares are only capable of producing 21.5 million tons of sunflower seed oil.
Next, let’s answer the question if the Palm Oil Free movement is supported by the global community to reduce palm oil consumption and its impact on deforestation. It is also assumed that the decline in palm oil consumption occurs in extreme conditions, in which the global community chooses not to consume palm oil. So that the needs of the community for palm oil must be shifted to other vegetable oils are soybean oil, rapeseed oil, and sunflower seed oil. The implication is increase in the production of three vegetable oils to meet the demand so that the additional land is also needed.
A recent study from PASPI showing that replacing 83.5 million tons of palm oil results in an additional 112 million hectares of soybean crops, 30 million hectares of rapeseed crops, and 25 million hectares of sunflower crops. This means that there will be about 167 million hectares of new vegetable oil plantations resulting from deforestation.
This shows that supporting the Palm Oil Free campaign will cause deforestation in the Amazon forest in Brazil, forests in America, forests in EU countries, and forests in Ukraine is getting bigger and will continue to increase. Therefore, do not let the anti-palm oil party selfishness cause greater environmental damage.
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