January 1, 2006
International concern has been growing about the impacts of the continuing expansion of oil palm plantations. The spread of oil palm has been blamed for extensive forest destruction, uncontrolled forest fires, loss of precious wild species and the undermining of environmental services. Yet already in Indonesia some 5 million people are involved in estates and mills as labourers or their families and as many again are tied to large estates as smallholders. Palm oil has major social as well as environmental impacts.World markets for edible oils are set to double in the next twenty years, implying a doubling of the area under oil palm if market share is maintained. New markets for 'biofuels' also provide scope for increased palm oil sales. Indonesia's national development plans are designed to secure it a large share of these markets.