(By epw.in)

Oil palm is amongst the fastest expanding crops in tropical Asia (Fitzherbert et al 2008). In south-east Asia, cultivated area under palm oil tripled within a decade (Boucher et al 2011), and the global production of palm oil has doubled between 2001 and 2011 (FAO 2011). Palm oil is immensely versatile, and finds use not only in foods, but also in biodiesel and lubricants and consumer products such as soaps, detergents and cosmetics (May-Tobin & Goodman 2014).

Not only is palm oil the cheapest vegetable oil in the world, but from a farmers perspective, it is also perhaps the most rewarding, with yields of four to six tonnes of crude palm oil per hectare (compared with less than one tonne per hectare from other oilseeds; [Ministry of Agriculture, GoI 2011]). It is not surprising then, that both global demand and supply continue to skyrocket in comparison to any other vegetable oil, including soybean, rapeseed and sunflower.

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