Photo: D. Oberländer


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The South-American palm species Acrocomia aculeata has great potential as a sustainable source for vegetable oils and provides economic opportunities for both smallholders and investors on less fertile crop- and grassland in sub-/tropical regions with limited rainfall. Past years’ research has made the plant ready for commercialisation. Now, pilot projects are needed to demonstrate its viability.

Secure supply of sustainably produced agricultural products is a major challenge of the 21st century, in particular with regard to vegetable oils. The market of plant oils is dominated by a few crops, notably oil palm (35 %), soybean (27 %), rapeseed (16 %) and sunflower (9 %).

At the same time, demand for plant oils is continuously growing, in the food, energy and chemical sector alike. Global production of vegetable oils has more than doubled during the last two decades, with a particularly strong increase for palm oil (see Figure). Due to this development, supply security of plant oils is stressed even today (Oil World, 2009), leading to price increases on the one hand and to unsustainable expansion of oil crop production areas on the other. In Indonesia, the main producer of palm oil, the area under oil palm increased from about 5,000 km2 in 1980 to more than 45,000 km2 in 2005 (Bangun, 2006).

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