Palm oil and deforestation – a perspective

Posted on: July 11, 2017

EPOA position on the ‘Report on palm oil and deforestation of rain forests’ adopted by the European Parliament

July 11, 2017

Having considered the content of the ‘Report on palm oil and deforestation of rain forests’ that was adopted by the European Parliament (EP) on 4 April 2017, the European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA), committed to support 100% sustainable palm oil in Europe by 2020, sees the following considerations and ideas as important elements in ensuring a sustainable food supply chain for palm oil.


  • Palm oil is the most traded vegetable oil in the world; it is an important ingredient for European food, with 3 mT imported for food use annually. Since 2000, the production of palm oil has doubled to 62 mT. It is expected to exceed 70 mT by 2020.
  • EPOA takes note that, based on FAO data, the 2013 European Commission Technical Report (entitled ‘The impact of EU consumption on deforestation’) estimates that oil palm’s role in deforestation is relatively limited at 2.5% of gross global deforestation. While ending oil palm driven deforestation will have limited impact on ending global deforestation, the topic is important and should be addressed.
  • EPOA members recognise the need for sustainable agricultural development and the role that sourcing of sustainable agricultural products can play in halting deforestation.
  • Palm oil is an important economic enabler for poor rural agricultural communities in producing countries, where it provides employment, income and development opportunities.
  • EPOA’s members have all committed to:
    • implement palm oil production practices that are environmentally sound, protect forests and biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
    • respect the rights of indigenous peoples, workers and local communities

Considerations for the ongoing discussions and upcoming reports:

  1. Build on the positive development of existing certification schemes and initiatives

To support progress towards 100% sustainable palm oil in food, EPOA encourages compliance with existing national and international certification schemes and initiatives, that may include traceability. Each scheme has specific value, for instance, the legal requirements related to the cultivation and production in Malaysia and Indonesia are creating an achievable and extensive base change. Their legal character ensures that all producers must comply with a baseline of sustainable production.

Voluntary certification schemes are important in setting a vision of what can be achieved with new practices and standards, innovative cultivation techniques.We believe there is room for multiple schemes and initiatives to allow all food supply chain players to achieve higher sustainability standards using the methodology that best fits their local environment.

  1. Increased engagement between EU authorities and producing countries

EPOA believes that close dialogue and agreements between the EU and producer countries (including those in LATAM and Africa) is crucial to promote and increase sustainable production practices at origin.

Trade agreements offer the opportunity to create an ambitious and comprehensive trade and sustainable development chapter which cements the importance of sustainable practices at local level and will provide international backing and authority for the multiple certification schemes in operation. Active support of the EU to plans of producing countries helping smallholders to switch to sustainable practises is of significant benefit. The EU trade negotiations with Indonesia and Malaysia provide parties an ideal opportunity to agree on a solution that works for both sides. This chapter should encompass economic development, social development and environmental protection, including the sustainable management of resources.

  1. Development of benchmarks in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders

As mentioned in the ENVI report, realistic benchmarks as well as a programme to achieve them are crucial elements to guide the work of the food supply chain. We call upon the European Commission to create the opportunity to consult and discuss options and ideas with peers and interlocutors in Europe and beyond, and to facilitate this dialogue. 

The most effective standards are those developed and agreed upon in close cooperation with the producing countries and/or organizations of the relevant commodities - such as the Council for Palm Oil Producing Countries – CPOPC - and the main importing countries.

  1. Support for voluntary initiatives to drive sustainable palm oil forward

The European Parliament acknowledges the positive contribution made by existing certification schemes. EPOA is an alliance that actively supports the supply chain commitment to source 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020.  Monitoring of achievements against different certification schemes or specific benchmarks helps clarify the progress towards this goal. In 2016 60% (FEDIOL: Palm Oil monitoring) of all European Palm Oil was sustainably sourced and processed based on voluntary initiatives. These Industry Initiatives are recognised and supported by several European governments in ‘The Amsterdam Declaration in Support of a Fully Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain by 2020’.