Palm-oil fast facts

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil with a growing share of growing worldwide demand for vegetable oil. It is the world’s most popular vegetable oil and its most traded: 81.9 million tonnes were produced in 2023.

Global vegetable-oil consumption

(tonnes million)

Global vegetable oil consumption

Source: Oil World annual 2024

How is palm oil produced?

Oil palms produce fresh fruit bunches (ffb) continuously over their 25-year life. Competing vegetable oil seeds are annual crops. Palm is grown +/-5º of the equator.

Fresh fruit bunches are steamed and then squeezed to yield crude palm oil. Separately, a nut is extracted from the fruit kernel and pressed to produce palm kernel oil (PKO).


Main producers of palm oil pie chart

Source: Oil World 2023 data

How are palm oil and palm kernel oil used?

Approximately half of products found in a UK supermarket contain palm oil or PKO, including shampoos, cosmetics, ice cream, biscuits, chocolate and cereals. See more information on our Health FAQS page.

Is palm oil efficient?

Palm is extremely efficient in land use: 3.3 tonnes of oil per hectare. It produces approximately 40% of the world’s vegetable oil on less than 8% of the area devoted to vegetable-oil cultivation.

Vegetable-oil yield per hectare


vegetable oil yield per hectare

Source: Oil World annual 2023

Is palm oil bad for you?

On balance there is no evidence to support assertions that palm oil is associated with adverse nutritional outcomes in humans. Growing production of palm oil has reduced human consumption of harmful trans fats.

Can palm oil be sustainable?

Yes. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (“RSPO”) has an independently-audited standard covering a wide range of social, environmental and economic criteria.

The RSPO was established in 2004 with diverse membership:

  • Environmental pressure groups: eg Oxfam, ZSL;
  • Global bodies: eg WWF; WRI;
  • Leading FMGC groups and retailers: eg Nestle; Modelez; Carrefour, Sainsbury’s; Bayer; Danone; L’Oréal;
  • Banks: IFC; Rabobank; HSBC;
  • Palm oil growers and traders.

8 principles tested for RSPO certification

  1. Commitment to transparency
  2. Compliance with applicable laws and regulation
  3. Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability
  4. Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers
  5. Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
  6. Responsible consideration of employees, individuals and communities
  7. Responsible development of new plantings
  8. Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity

Is palm oil sustainable now?


of the world’s palm oil is currently produced sustainably, but despite the low premium it commands, only half of this is bought.

Forty per cent of the world’s palm oil producers are members of the RSPO, as well as many product manufacturers, retailers, environmental and social non-governmental organisations.

RSPO oil can be bought for a premium of only US$2-25/tonne.

Is it sensible to avoid or ban palm oil?

“Oil palm is highly efficient. Simply using another type of oil might take up more land leading to more deforestation. We may be able to protect [our forest relatives] through simple choices, like buying products from deforestation-free sustainable palm oil from companies that support local people using existing plantations without cutting down more rainforest.”

Sir David Attenborough, 2019

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