The most popular vegetable oilPalm oil is used for food products, detergents, cosmetics and – increasingly – biofuel.
Global production of palm oil has doubled over the last decade. By 2000, palm oil was the most produced and traded vegetable oil (FAO 2002), accounting for 40% of all vegetable oils traded internationally. By 2006, the percentage had risen to 65% (FAO).
Worldwide demand for palm oil is expected to double again by 2020. New plantations are being developed and existing ones are being expanded in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries, as well as in Africa and Latin America.
But this expansion comes at the expense of tropical forest – which forms critical habitat for a large number of endangered species.
The rising popularity of vegetable oils
Likewise, per capita human consumption of vegetable oils has increased more rapidly during the past 30 years than any other food.
Economic growth is certainly one reason that more consumers, particularly in China and India, can afford to purchase more vegetable oils. However, this trend also suggests that more people prefer to have a higher percentage of their food prepared with vegetable oils.