Palm Oil History

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with over 17 000 islands, once used to be  covered in tropical forests until the largest of these islands, Borneo were taken over by corporations and palm oil companies with the Indonesian government’s permission. This initially started in 1968 when Suharto began investing in the Indonesian oil palm sector from which its slow growth began into the 1970s.

Rapid expansion occurred throughout the 80s brought on by the global demand for the oil which Suharto believed would greatly benefit Indonesia if its production and expansion were increasingly invested in. This was because, while Malaysia was leading the way in the oil palm sector, Indonesia’s greater land area and lower labour costs would soon make the country the leader in production.

The government soon converted several million hectares of the country’s rainforest into oil palm plantations to become the biggest global producer of the oil. Though not while Suharto’s time in office, Indonesia surpassed Malaysia in production and export of palm oil in 2007 and the industry now takes up over 16 million hectares of land in Indonesia.

Approximately 80% of all palm oil is produced unsustainably and it is said that the other 20% is supposedly produced by ‘certified sustainable’ methods which is debatable for various reasons which we won’t go into here. There are millions of hectares of degraded land which palm oil companies could use to plant their plantations on but they rely on felling rainforest wood to fund their plantation and on degraded land there are no rainforest trees to fell.

Oil palms have replaced all but small patches of forest. ARROWHEAD FILMS”

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