Palm Oil: Production

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 12th October 2021.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their analysis of the impact of palm-oil production on (1) indigenous small farmers, (2) global climate, (3) food manufacturing, and (4) consumer diets and health.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

To inform our policies on palm oil, the Government draws on the analysis of experts and NGOs, as well as working with the UK roundtable on sustainable palm oil, and the work of certification schemes like Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. In addition, we utilise government programming like Partnerships for Forests and the independent Global Resource Initiative to help inform policies on palm oil and on supply chains more widely.

This analysis has indicated that palm oil can be associated with negative environmental impacts, such as deforestation, land conversion and associated climate impacts. However, it also shows that oil palm is a very efficient crop, producing more oil per hectare than other vegetable oil crops. Substitution with other oils (e.g. soybean, rapeseed, sunflower), which typically require significantly more land to produce, may lead to greater deforestation as more land is converted to agricultural use. More than 3 million smallholder farmers make a living from palm oil, providing 40% of total production, and palm oil is important for food security in many countries

Certifiably sustainable palm oil increases traceability and transparency through the supply chain, supporting manufacturers and retail to make more informed decisions about their sourcing, and allowing them to source from producers with a lower environmental footprint. The UK’s Partnership for Forests programme includes support to develop new standards for the sustainable production of palm oil, and support to test new ways of growing oil palm that brings greater benefits to local communities and protects forests.

Finally, palm oil is an important part of food production globally. We want the entire supply chain to help to deliver healthier food and encourage healthy eating. To that end, our Food Strategy White Paper will build on existing policy work such as that developed under the Agriculture Act, and the obesity strategy, to help ensure our food system delivers healthy and affordable food for all people and is built upon a resilient and sustainable agriculture sector.

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