China boosts sustainable palm oil

A consortium of China-based producers and buyers of palm oil has pledged to support the purchase, promotion and use of sustainably made palm oil at a time when Malaysian manufacturers are complaining of low sales because of high prices, BusinessGreen reported. The move by China — the world’s largest importer of palm oil — is seen as an important step in efforts to halt tropical deforestation. 

Environmental groups hope that the pledge will increase sales of oil that has been certified as sustainably produced. Because of the higher price, only 2.5% of the total output has been sold, according to figures released in May by the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

China currently accounts for a third of all global trade in palm oil. Increasing demand for the oil — which is used in soap, chocolate bars, margarine and other products – is causing considerable damage to fragile rain forest environments, threatening endangered species such as tigers, and contributing to global climate change.

“Given the massive volumes of palm oil now being purchased, any move China makes towards using sustainable palm oil will have a big influence on protecting tropical forest resources in south-east Asia and other areas,” said Adam Harrison, a senior policy officer for food and agriculture for WWF-UK.

Among the palm-oil producers and buyers making the statement of support were Wilmar International, IOI Corporation, KLK Berhad, Kulim Malaysia Berhad, Asia Agri., Premier Foods PLC and Unilever PLC. Oxfam International, TransAsia Lawyers and Solidaridad China were signatories. The industry group also promised to invest in sustainable production of the oil in countries abroad.

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