Palm Oil and The Haze and Forest Fires
From cooking oil to biscuits, from peanut butter to soap, palm oil is a necessary ingredient for almost all organic and many non-organic household items. With the earth’s population ever increasing, there is perpetual increase in demand of palm oil every year. According to Bloomberg’s report, in 2011, global demand of palm oil rose 5% to 48.9 million metric tons from 46.6 million metric tons in 2010.
Indonesia is the world’s largest palm-oil producer, and it is predicted that a further 6 million hectares of (primarily forested) land will be converted to oil-palm plantations by 2020, with half of this on peatland (Hooijer et al, 2006). Most of the plantations projects are owned by large, multi-national companies such as Wilmar, Sime Darby, Indofood and London Sumatra, or allowed to strive by major oil-palm buyers such as Nestle, Nabisco, etc. It is undisputed that the ever increasing demand of palm oil will lead to the decimation of the rainforests in Indonesia.
According to the survey of 159 people dine in Singapore and Bandung, Indonesia in 2012, given the knowledge of the connection between oil palm consumption and forest fires, most people orally pledge a commitment to reduce their personal consumption of palm oil (92% and 91% respectively).
However, the survey also indicate that consumers in Bandung or Singapore are often unaware that most of the household goods they frequently buy contain palm oil.
It is widely reported that people generally do not bother reading the ingredients or nutrition information on the label of a product. (Melnick, 2011). But even for those who do, some producers have substituted the use of the name ‘palm oil’ with other names.