Have you heard of palm oil?  How about vegetable oil or olive oil?  Oils from plants, vegetables, seeds and nuts have been used for centuries all over the world for many different foods and products, so what makes palm oil such a controversial product?


Where Does Palm oil Come From?

Palm Trees

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that is made from the fruits of the African (and sometime the American) oil palm tree. These trees grow hundreds of little orangey red fruits that are squashed, squeezed and pulped to produce palm oil. At the centre of the oil palm fruits, much like a nectarine, there is a stone, or ‘kernel’ and this is chopped and mashed up to produce the high protein ingredients palm kernel meal and palm kernel oil.

Oil palms are native to Africa, where palm oil has been used in cooking for thousands of years. The trees grow naturally in tropical rainforests but are now also being planted on farms so that people can produce more oil. First brought to Asia as ornamental trees, oil palms have now become a staple crop, with Indonesia and Malaysia supplying over 85% of the world’s palm oil annually.  Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, producing a huge 51.8 million tonnes of it in 2019. Until 1934, Nigeria had been the world's largest producer and, in 2018, the country was still the third largest palm oil producer in the world. Thailand also produces huge quantities of unrefined crude palm oil, most of which is used locally rather than being imported. 

Palm oil is also grown in other African countries, though plantations have so far been kept relatively small for fear of damaging biodiversity and due to concerns about fuel crops taking over space that is needed to grow food.


Read More: What is Palm oil Used for?

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