Due to its versatility and resilience, palm oil has become a key ingredient in a whole host of diverse products we use daily such as detergent, lipstick, shampoo, chocolate, bread, ice cream and bio diesel. Along with the fact that it has a high melting point and doesn’t spoil easily, palm oil also became enormously popular because it is relatively cheap, costing significantly less than other vegetable oils.
Over the past 50 years, demand for the product has risen sharply with annual production quadrupling between 1995 and 2015 and it is expected to quadruple yet again by 2050.
Palm oil is cultivated in tropical rainforests and soaring demand has caused devastating and irreparable environmental damage. Uncontrolled clearing of tropical rainforests has been linked to the destruction of the habitat of a number of endangered species including the orangutan, Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhino.
While palm oil cultivation has lifted incomes in rural parts of poorer nations it has also resulted in widespread labor and human rights abuses. Rising awareness of these issues have dented palm oil’s reputation in recent years, but nevertheless, many consumers remain unaware that they are even using it.
So, given the fact that palm oil is present in nearly every facet of our lives, which countries are responsible for producing it? According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly 85% of palm oil is produced in just two countries – Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2019, Indonesia produced 42.5 million tons, 58% of global production, while 19 million tons came from Malaysia – 26% of the global supply. Other major palm oil producers include Thailand, Colombia and Nigeria, though all three produced less than 3 million tons last year.
*Click below to enlarge (charted by Statista)