25 Shocking And Sad Facts About Palm Oil

Posted by , Updated on March 22, 2024

Palm oil has recently come to the forefront of public consciousness, attracting considerable scrutiny from media outlets, environmental groups, political figures and everyday individuals. The problem does not lie with palm oil itself, a viable edible vegetable oil derived mainly from the mesocarp (red pulp) of the fruit of the oil palm, particularly the African oil palm, and to a lesser degree, the American oil palm and maripa palm. Indeed, the issues stem from the farming and manufacturing processes linked to the oil’s production. Due to palm oil’s efficient yield, it is extensively used in the global commercial food sector, which drives broader cultivation. Consequently, large forested areas worldwide, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, are cleared to make way for oil palm monoculture, causing the massive displacement and extinction of various animal and plant species, many of which are critically endangered. Despite these devastating repercussions of unsustainable palm oil production, numerous people are yet to comprehend its magnitude. Learn more by reading these 25 Shocking And Sad Facts About Palm Oil.


Palm oil is extremely high in saturated fat. One tablespoon of palm oil contains as many as 55 percent of the daily recommendation of saturated fat.

palm oilSource: www.onegreenplanet.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Several studies have linked palm oil to higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and ischemic heart disease deaths (68 deaths per 100,000 increase).

heart diseaseSource: en.wikipedia.org, image: pixabay.com

Palm oil is not used in food industry only. Today, abound 50 percent of all the goods we use every day contain palm oil, from processed foods to candles, cosmetics, washing detergents and “bio-fuels”.

cosmeticsSource: www.rainforest-rescue.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

Palm trees harvested for the oil need high temperatures and humidity to grow and fruit, which is why they flourish in rainforest areas.

Palm treesSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared every hour to make way for palm oil production.

deforestationSource: saynotopalmoil.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

One of the reasons why palm plantations are so large is because every oil palm that is planted needs over 3 m (10 ft) diameter clear around each tree.

palm plantationsSource: palmoilinvestigations.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Palm oil is also produced in regions such as Central and West Africa or Central America but is in Malaysia and Indonesia where the vast majority of the oil is produced. In fact, just these two countries account for around 90% of the entire world palm oil production.

palm oilSource: palmoilinvestigations.org, image: flickr.com

Up to 80% of the total deforestation in Indonesia is reported to be performed illegally.

deforestation Source: en.wikipedia.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Burning of the forests to clear land for cultivation has even made Indonesia the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China and the US).

Asian hazeSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

Clearing just one hectare of peat forest can release up to 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Indonesia has already cleared over 10 million hectares of these forests.

Borneo firesSource: www.onegreenplanet.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

One of the reasons why palm oil is so massively farmed is because it produces up to 10 times more oil per unit area than soya beans, rapeseed or sunflowers.

palm oilSource: en.wikipedia.org, image: flickr.com

Given the rate of deforestation in the past years, new estimates suggest that 98% of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests may be completely destroyed by 2022.

deforestationSource: www.rainforest-rescue.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

Numerous animal species have been facing extinction due to the massive conversion of forests into palm plantations including the Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Tiger, Asian Rhinoceros, Sun Bear, Clouded Leopard, Malayan Tapir, Proboscis Monkey, Gibbon and many more.

clouded leopardSource: palmoilinvestigations.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

However, it is the Sumatran orangutan who has become the symbol of the gruesome consequences of the unsustainable palm oil production. Over 50 orangutans are killed every week due to deforestation. Their homes are bulldozed and they are left to starve to death.

orangutan Source: palmoilinvestigations.org, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Deforestation also makes the orangutans more vulnerable to poachers. They are often run over by excavation equipment, doused in petrol and burnt alive, captured, tortured, beaten, shot or slaughtered as they are considered a pest by the oil palm companies. In 2006 alone, for example, at least 1,500 orangutans were clubbed to death by palm workers.

Orangutans in the forestSource: palmoilinvestigations.org, image: Shutterstock

Currently, a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are considered to be critically endangered as a consequence of the development that is rapidly encroaching on their habitat.

tigerSource: www.saynotopalmoil.com, image: en.wikipedia.org

The palm oil industry is also linked to major human rights violations, including child labor in remote areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. Children are made to carry large loads of heavy fruit, weed fields and spend long hours bent over collecting fruit from the plantation floor.

childrenSource: www.saynotopalmoil.com, image: flickr.com

As almost 45 million people live in the forests of Indonesia, the deforestation also has a direct impact on local population. In 2011, Wilmar (one of the world’s largest palm oil producers) bulldozed an entire village, destroying 40 homes to clear 40,000 hectares of land for a palm plantation.

indonesian villageSource: www.onegreenplanet.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

Between 1967 and 2000 the area under cultivation in Indonesia expanded from less than 2,000 sq km (770 sq mi) to more than 30,000 sq km (12,000 sq mi). These days, the number is much greater.

Oil palm plantationSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

At the beginning of the 20th century, about 250,000 tons of palm oil was exported annually from South-East Asia. This figure has risen to over 60 million tons today.

palm oilSource: www.saynotopalmoil.com, image: flickr.com

Millions of people across South East Asia have been affected by the thick, choking haze emitted from fires used to destroy the rain forests. Over 110,000 people die prematurely each year as a result of this toxic air pollution.

Asian hazeSource: www.greenpeace.org, image: flickr.com

In 2014, Indonesia had the highest rate of deforestation in the world. Although second-placed Brazil is a much larger country, Indonesia “managed” to clear almost twice as much forest as the Southern American country in certain years.

deforestation Source: time.com, image: commons.wikimedia.org

Some lobbyists argue that the palm oil production is in fact eco-friendly as the palm oil is used to produce bio-fuels, others argue that the devastating consequences of transforming the rainforests into palm plantations are incomparably greater than the benefits of bio-fuels.

bio fuelsSource and image: en.wikipedia.org

According to World Wildlife Fund, there are some 20 million hectares of abandoned land in Indonesia that could be used for palm oil plantations but many palm oil companies are tied in with logging firms as the timber is extremely valuable. Therefore, they prefer clearing virgin forests to get money twice - once for the timber and later for the oil.

logging truckSource: palmoilinvestigations.org, image: en.wikipedia.org

Before the explosion of the palm oil industry, the Indonesian rain forests were so thick that the natives said orangutans were able to cross the whole island by just swinging from tree to tree, never touching the ground.

rainforestSource: thecrowdedplanet.com, image: pixabay.com