State of Palm Oil in Singapore

Palm oil is the world’s most efficiently produced vegetable oil. Compared with other vegetable oils, it has significantly higher yields per hectare with low input costs. It has made substantial contributions to many local and national economies across Asia, with Indonesia and Malaysia accounting for 86% of global palm oil production

However, rapid unsustainable expansion of palm oil in recent decades has come at a high cost for people and nature, with negative impacts reaching Singapore.

Deforestation image. Source: icon. Source: dioxide icon. Source: : icon. Source:
Deforestation and Biodiversity loss Transboundary Haze Climate Risks Social Risks
Rapid rates of deforestation due to agricultural expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia have led to an extensive loss of biodiversity.

Between 2004 and 2017, Sumatra and Borneo lost 8.3 million hectares of forests, an area approximately 114 times the size of Singapore.
In 2015, Southeast Asia experienced its worst haze crisis, which lasted four months and affected many countries, including Singapore.

The crisis was estimated to have cost Singapore S$700 million.
The clearing and burning of peatlands to make way for palm oil results in a significant carbon footprint, which in turn contributes to increasing global temperatures and rising sea levels.

Singapore is particularly vulnerable to climate change as a low-lying city state. 
Palm oil has been linked to negative impacts on local communities and indigenous people; such as land grabs and conflicts, allegations of forced displacement and harassment, and the loss of access to forest provisioning services such as food and medicine.

Although progress has been made in recent years, the uptake of certified sustainable palm oil in Singapore and other countries in the region still remains low. In 2019, RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil accounted for an estimated 10% of total volumes consumed in Singapore.

More action is needed across key sectors and actors in the palm oil supply chain to address the deforestation risks present in its value chain.

Singapore’s use of palm products is diverse, spreading across six key industries: biofuel & energy, edible oils, cosmetics, surfactants, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. See the figure below for the palm oil consumption breakdown by application sector in Singapore. 

Pie chart of Singapore’s palm product consumption per sector, 2019 (0.36 million tonnes).  8% chemicals, 1% Animal Feed, 15% Cooking Oil/fat, 5% Processed food, 27% Biofuel & Energy, 19% Surfactants, 18% cosmetics, 9% pharmaceuticals.

Figure: Singapore’s palm product consumption per sector, 2019 (0.36 million tonnes).
Source: In the Palm of Singapore’s Hand: Advancing the Sustainable Palm Oil Agenda, 2021

As an economic powerhouse in Asia committed to sustainable development, Singapore plays a key role in the transition to sustainable palm oil.  Let’s all do our part!

For more information on sustainable palm oil in Singapore see the In the Palm of Singapore’s Hand: Advancing the Sustainable Palm Oil Agenda report published in 2021 by WWF. The report emphasizes the importance of Singapore’s role in the palm oil industry and outlines how key stakeholders (buyers, traders, financial institutions and government) play a crucial role in transitioning towards a more sustainable palm oil industry.

For more palm oil resources click here.

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