Climate zone: Tropical – Dry – Temperate – Continental – Polar
Derived from the fruit of oil palms, palm oil is a vegetable oil used in a multitude of different products – almost 50% of all packaged products contain it. This is because the oil is extremely versatile. The palm also produces palm kernel oil which is different in its color and composition and derived from the kernels of the same fruit. It is extremely productive compared to other vegetable oils. Today, Indonesia and Malaysia host more than 85% of global production whilst 42 other countries also engage in oil palm cultivation.
Unfortunately, oil palm cultivations are still often characterized by monocultures driving biodiversity loss and species extinction. In agroforestry systems, oil palm plantation have shown to become more productive, whilst supporting biodiversity and diminishing the need for pesticides.
Oil palm can be planted with black pepper, yam, cassava, maize, and melon. Depending on where you are in the world other crop combinations are also possible! A study found that smallholder farmers who intercropped oil palm with other plants enjoyed increased yields, a more stable income, and increased food security. “Despite reductions in palm oil yields, smallholders prefer mixed systems to diversify sources of household income.”
Palm oil has experienced unprecedented growth in both consumption and production as global demand for edible oil continues to rise. Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, found in anything from chocolate to ice cream, lipstick to shampoo. The COVID-19 pandemic, on the other hand, has put a halt to the palm oil industry’s expansion as countries impose varying degrees of lockdown.