Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is used in a lot of day-to-day products including food and cosmetics. Around half of the packaged food products in an average supermarket may contain palm oil. It used to be often labelled as ‘vegetable oil’, but now all food packaging in Europe now has to list it specifically in their ingredients.
The oil is extracted from the seeds of the oil palm tree, which originated in West Africa. It is now grown around the tropics: in south-east Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Whilst there are many small growers of palm oil, it is also regularly grown in very large plantations with the seeds sent to mills in the same country for processing, and the resulting oil being distributed worldwide. Indonesia and Malaysia are the top two palm oil-producing countries in the world. Oil palms produce more oil per hectare of land than any other vegetable oil crop, making it the world’s cheapest vegetable oil.
Palm Oil Issues
As global demand for this cheap and versatile vegetable oil grows, plantations are expanding, and vast areas of rainforest are being cut down to make way for them. These areas are often vital habitat for endangered species. The forests also store huge amounts of carbon, and many stand on peat soils which hold massive additional carbon stocks that can be released when the forest is removed – bad news for the global fight against climate change.
Forest conversion is not an essential element of the industrial production of palm oil – it can be grown on ‘degraded’ and non-forest land, but forests are still falling as the government and companies can benefit from establishing new plantations in areas of rainforest, such as through selling the timber from logged areas before setting up the new plantation.
If we all switched to using a different type of vegetable oil, this could result in two unintended consequences:
There would be a big rise in demand for land to grow other vegetable oil crops to replace the demand for palm oil – all agriculture has a footprint and this could lead to even more precious forests being lost.
The price of palm oil could drop, actually increasing demand in other areas of the world such as India and China, and for uses such as biofuels.
What is RSPO
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is established to improve palm oil production practices and ensure the traceability of palm oil supplies from palm plantations to the finished product.
The RSPO certificate confirms that the company’s products contain palm oil, which is obtained from responsibly managed palm plantations. Certification allows a company to use the RSPO trademark on products. RSPO certification is applicable to all food and household products that use palm oil, palm kernel oil or products derived from it.
We are delighted that all our key suppliers of toffee, fudge, chocolate, biscuits and cakes use RSPO certified palm oil, and we hold their certification on file.
We at Farrah’s are committed to sourcing sustainable palm oil for all products we supply by January 2025. We will have worked with our suppliers to ensure that where palm oil is present in our products, it will be from sustainable sources.