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Myth/Fact

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 that of soy; one tenth that of maize and one-eleventh that of wheat.

In 2018, around 6.8 million ha of oil palm was harvested in Indonesia. Yet, this small land area produces a huge natural bounty. The output per hectare for palm oil is much higher than for other crops. Oil palms produce 11 times more oil per hectare than soybean plants, ten times more than sunflower and seven times more than canola.

This means that more than triple the amount of vegetable oil is produced from oil palm than rapeseed — on half as much land.

Oil palm also requires less than 15 per cent of inputs such as fertilizer and pesticide compared to rapeseed and soybean.

On this basis alone, oil palm is far better for the environment than rapeseed and soy, which require more land clearing and more pesticides.

These are the facts. And yet, media and governments continue to demonize palm oil and not other crops. Why?

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