Bangladesh Joined the Asian Palm Oil Alliance Launched in September 2022, the global sustainability organisation and the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA) launched the “Asian Palm Oil Alliance (APOA) in the Globoil Summit at Agra on 21September 2022. The Alliance commits to work across the world to ensure that palm oil is recognised as a high-quality, economical, and healthy vegetable oil and to change the negative image of palm oil.

The APOA alliance is initiated by the apex solvent extractors associations of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. In the coming year, the membership would be further expanded to include other select companies or industry organisations operating in the production and/or refining of palm oil in Asia.

The Alliance pledges to work across the globe to ensure that palm oil is recognised as a high-quality, economical, and healthy vegetable oil and to alter the negative image of palm oil. In the future, membership to the alliance will be expanded to include other organisations involved in the production and/or refining of palm oil in Asia.

Atul Chaturvedi, Director of Adani Wilmar Ltd and the President of SEA, was elected as the first Chairman of the APOA. Speaking at the launching ceremony of the APOA, Shri Atul Chaturvedi said, “The formation of APOA empowers several Asian countries for whom palm oil is a source of affordable food and nutrition. The APOA aims to safeguard the economic and business interests of the palm-oil consuming countries and to create a level playing field for all fats and oils used in food, feed, and oleochemicals in Asia. The alliance will further work towards increasing the consumption of sustainable palm oil in member countries”.

According to B.V. Mehta, executive director, SEA, Asian markets are responsible for about 40% of the global demand for palm oil. “Europe accounts for about 12% of the market, and the US for 2%. India is the largest importer of Palm oil in the Asian region and accounts for 15% of global imports. China with 9%, Pakistan with 4% and Bangladesh with 2% of the global imports are the other significant countries with a stake in palm oil production and trade. However, the industry associations of Asian palm-oil importing countries, are not involved in shaping the global discourse on sustainable palm oil in a collective way, like their EU counterparts.

Mehta shared that over the last two decades, Asian stakeholders were required to follow sustainability standards which do not consider the realities of the Asian market. The launch of APOA is expected to bridge this gap and help develop a shared, collective, coordinated, and coherent position of the Asian palm oil industry stakeholders.

Managing Director Dr Shatadru Chattopadhayay of Solidaridad Network Asia, shared, “We are happy to be the neutral convenor of all significant Asian solvent extractors associations. In the coming years, we believe APOA will emerge as one of the most vital forums to address common problems, interests and aspirations of the global palm oil industry, while, the rising wealth of Asia further boosts the regional demand for palm oil. We expect APOA will soon be joined by other palm oil producing countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand”.

Palm Oil Industry Association of Sri Lanka President, Dr. Rohan Fernando said; “The role of APOA is crucial in the facilitation of collective and coordinated efforts by Asian palm oil producer countries and palm oil consuming countries for sustainable palm oil production and to strengthen Asia’s role in palm oil sustainability efforts”.

Kazi Salahuddin Ahammad of the Bangladesh Vegetable Oil Refiners & Vanaspati Manufacturers Association said, “Asia has a key role to play in sustainable palm oil production and we hope that the creation of APOA will support and accelerate the transition towards a sustainable and inclusive palm oil industry in Asia. This will also enhance Asia’s position as a sustainability leader.”

Palm oil, one of the most competitive vegetable oil crops in terms of productivity, was previously banned by the Sri Lankan government, resulting in losses and opportunity cost amounting to millions of dollars. Palm oil yields four to five times oil per hectare compared to coconut. Palm oil plantations have served Sri Lanka for over 54 years and generates the highest profits per hectare compared to other commercial crops, demonstrating palm oil as the most profitable crop for smallholders.

The APOA members met with the 10-member delegation from the Indonesian Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs and Indonesia, the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) and the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) Secretariat to explore research opportunities “to scientifically demonstrate the health benefits of palm oil and launch joint consumer campaigns in Asian markets”.

The next APOA meeting is expected to be held in Indonesia early next year.