Oils and fats industry experts from around the world gather in Malaysia to discuss the global palm oil trade

The 2018 Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar (POTS) drew attention to palm oil’s expanding role in global food security, and revealed challenges perpetuated by myths and misconceptions

It was a convergence of experts from more than a dozen countries and cultures when the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) hosted the 2018 Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar (POTS) in Kuala Lumpur. Individuals from Asia, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Egypt, Canada, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Iran, Africa, Colombia and Russia gathered to discuss issues and exchange information on the latest developments on palm oil trade.

MPOC Chief Executive Officer Datuk Dr. Kalyana Sundram delivered an eye-opening presentation on Embracing Change in a Global Market. He noted that palm oil currently accounts for 30 percent of the global oils and fats supply. Malaysia is one of the world’s largest palm oil exporters, second only to Indonesia.

Palm oil plays an essential role in global food security, but Sundram cautioned the gathering that current oils and fats production levels will soon be insufficient. “The global human population will grow to more than nine billion by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates the world will have to produce about 60 to 70 percent more food in the next 35 years while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that the world will need 20 percent more food by 2020,” he stated.

Palm oil and the global oil and fats requirement

But world demand for palm oil, the most of environmentally efficient of all major seed oil crops, is being hindered by myths and misconceptions. At issue, he said, are “Policies emerging, proposed or imposed either by developed nations or activist groups that issue misrepresented statements under the misguided concern for the protection of the environment.” He added, “Countries are imposing bans, embargoes, quotas and taxes, while also enforcing unfair certifications which distort or mislead the consumers and disrupt the growth, production and supply potential of vegetable oils.”

Sundram called out Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other groups enforcing environmental pressures, saying, “These groups are funded by various entities that are threatened by the presence of better, more viable vegetable oils and fats products. They have been anti-growth agents to prevent developing countries from expanding their agricultural production.”

Palm oil is not as big as a culprit of deforestation as other energy crops.

He explained, “The real culprits with devastating deforestation records are the countries where these green NGOs are coming from.” Malaysia maintains at least 56 percent of its land as forest. Sundram compared Malaysia’s forestation with those of the United Kingdom (11 percent); France (29 percent), United States (33 percent) and Australia (19 percent).

Sundram issued these parting messages for POTS participants to take home to their countries:

  • Palm oil will continue to be a major source of the oils and fats required to meet global food security demands
  • Oil palm cultivation requires less land to produce to each unit equivalent of edible oil
  • When arable land is limited, it makes sense to choose palm cultivation over other oilseeds given the higher yields from the oil palm. But growth areas are very limited.
  • Higher yield projections, increasing from 4MT/hectare to almost 12 MT/hectare will make palm the oilseed crop of choice in many countries aspiring for greater food (oils) security.
  • Sustainability is not an issue for Malaysian palm oil but is made an issue by the western environmental NGOs.
  • Palm oil is a major revenue earner for Malaysia and it can be the same for developing countries.
  • Palm oil will assist developing countries to promote poverty eradication, improve income for smallholders and uplift the economy of developing nations.
  • Palm oil production respects and adopts the three Ps principles of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit.  

take home palm oil messages

The two days of POTS presentations covered everything from economics and biodiesel to health and food formulation. Many experts spoke to how global oil supply and demand issues are impacting their respective countries. Papers from this event may be downloaded from the MPOC website.


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