India surpassed China as the world’s largest buyer of palm oil in 2009, reports Bloomberg.
According to figures from the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, a processor group based in Mumbai, India imported 7 million metric tons of palm oil in 2009. China imported 6.4 million tons last year.
B.V. Mehta, executive director of the association, said the rise is attributed to increasing demand for processed foods and drought conditions, which reduced domestic production of vegetable oil.
Palm oil import data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service. The USDA uses a “marketing year” basis rather than the calendar year, hence the difference from the figures reported in the article.
“India is adding 20 million people, or equivalent to an Australia, to its population every year,” Mehta told Bloomberg in an interview. “That’s driving demand, along with rising per-capita incomes.”
The oil palm is the world’s highest-yield oilseed grown on commercial-scale.
Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil, followed by Malaysia.
As palm oil importers, India and China are followed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States.
Expansion of oil palm agriculture has been linked to deforestation and other environmental ills. Since 1990 more than half of plantation growth has occurred at the expense of forests.