Myth: Palm oil in Indonesia is the sole property of big companies that exploit the workers on oil palm plantations; Indonesian small farmers do not really exist

There are as many as 4 million smallholder oil palm farmers in Indonesia – roughly half the total population of Switzerland. Smallholders are present in most of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. The number of smallholder oil palm farmers has increased over the past 20 years. Oil palm farming is a lifeline for rural communities across Indonesia that do not have a way out of poverty. It is not – as some NGOs state – a source of labour exploitation.

Myth: Indonesian palm oil is worse for the environment than European rapeseed and sunflower

Agricultural land covers around 31.46 per cent of Indonesia’s total land area compared to 52.44 per cent in France and 71.71 per cent in UK. Oil palm plantations cover approximately 6 per cent of Indonesia’s total land area. Globally the harvested oil palm area in 2018 was 18 million ha. This is small compared to other crops: half the global area of rapeseed; one-seventh the area of soy; one tenth the area of maize and one-eleventh the area of wheat.

Myth: Indonesian palm oil has destroyed Indonesia’s forests, leaving it with much less forest area than in Europe

More than 49.86 per cent of Indonesia is forested, covering an area of 91 million ha. Indonesia’s forest area is larger than the total land area of France and Germany combined. Indonesia’s forests cover more than twice the total land area of California. Indonesia’s total protection and conservation forest area is 51.8 million ha, covering 27 per cent of the country’s land area. This is an area larger than Spain. Indonesia has a superior conservation track record compared to most European countries.

Myth: EU rapeseed and sunflower are healthier than Indonesian palm oil

Rapeseed and sunflower oils have for decades been subject to ‘partial hydrogenation’, an artificial process that creates trans fats. Trans fats are labelled by scientists as one of the biggest dangers for human health. Palm oil contains zero trans fats. Due to palm oil’s unique physical properties, with a balance of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, it is an ideal source of trans fat-free oils/fats, which ensures a long shelf life for food.

Myth: EU rapeseed and sunflower are the most sustainable vegetable oils in the world

Indonesian palm oil has a strict, widely adopted certification standard for sustainability (ISPO), covering the whole country. In addition, Indonesian palm oil producers also meet international standards for regulatory schemes (e.g. ISCC) and NGO-led schemes (e.g. RSPO). Palm oil from Indonesia is certified more than any other vegetable oil from any other country. Rapeseed and sunflower do not abide by these strict sustainability measures.

Myth: EU rapeseed and sunflower provide the highest quality, most efficient vegetable oil

Independent data from leading international institutions show that palm oil is superior in yields, productivity, land use, health benefits and commitment to the environment and sustainability as compared with rapeseed, sunflower and other vegetable oils. These facts highlight the falsehoods pushed by ongoing, defamatory NGO campaigns, supported by rapeseed and sunflower interests in Europe.

Myth: There are no more Orangutans in Indonesia; they have all been killed by palm oil

Orangutans are a protected species in Indonesia. They are an iconic species for Indonesia and the region. Indonesia’s orangutans are found in Sumatra, a large Indonesian island west of Java and south of the Malay Peninsula. They are also found in the Indonesian state of Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. Indonesia has around 115,000 orangutans. It is estimated that there are 105,000 orangutans on the island of Borneo and another 13,500 on the island of Sumatra.

Myth: Indonesian palm oil is not certified sustainable

There is more certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) than any other oil crop in the world. CSPO outstrips any certification of soybean, rapeseed and other oilseed crops. Indonesia is the #1 producer of certified sustainable palm oil in the world; no other country comes close. Indonesia is the #1 Sustainable Choice. Indonesia has developed its own sustainability certification, which is mandatory for all growers across Indonesia – Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO).

Myth: Oil palm plantations are to blame for deforestation and fires across the world

Palm oil is not the world’s leading cause of deforestation. Research from the European Commission and Centre for Global Development shows that other commodities – beef/livestock, soybean and even maize – are bigger drivers of deforestation. Deforestation from soybean is double that of palm. Together, deforestation caused by cocoa and coffee is equal to that of palm. Palm oil is not the leading cause of fires in Indonesia.

Myth: Indonesian small farmers are in conflict with large companies

Indonesia is committed to full land tenure and rights for small farmers. This is an ongoing process. Indonesia’s history of colonialism and overlapping jurisdictions means there are often competing claims to the same land. This means that land is often in dispute. Land disputes occur in Indonesia across all sectors – not just oil palm plantations. Indonesia’s legal system has significant challenges dealing with these land disputes and regrettably some communities take disputes into their own hands.

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