Higher oil palm yields are bad ?

Khor Reports: Environmentalists and others have been concerned about the extensification of oil palm, arguing that expansion should be on degraded land and that the focus should be instead on yield increases. The Indonesian state appears to be moving toward making degraded land easier to use via new regulations. For quite some time, there has been a great deal of work and effort going into intensification or higher yields. So you would have thought that better yields achievements would be welcomed. However, an article in Science (covered by now argues that yield increase is NOT a good thing after all.... Hard to please on any front? It makes oil palm planting too valuable / lucrative?

News links:

Good Palm Oil Yields Could Be Bad News by Cynthia Graber; "Increased palm oil yields could unintentionally have the effect of creating a bigger demand for land for even more palm oil planting. Cynthia Graber reports... in an article in the journal Science, researchers show how the increased yield could in fact lead to even more tropical destruction. Because as the value of palm oil planting increases, farmers could want to plant on even greater tracts of land. Which is bad news....  Also, a future increase in supply could eventually lead to a decrease in prices. So palm oil could out-compete, say, rapeseed oil from Canada. Which would lead to an even higher demand for palm oil. Which is worse news....  In addition, current low yields and high production costs means oil palm is not planted much in Africa and South America. But higher yields could make oil palm attractive to planters in those regions, leading to even more tropical forest destruction. [L. R. Carrascol et al, A double-edged sword for tropical forests]....

Article link:

Science 3 October 2014:  Vol. 346  no. 6205  pp. 38-40   DOI: 10.1126/science.1256685 
•Perspective Conservation
A double-edged sword for tropical forests
L. R. Carrasco1,  C. Larrosa1,2,   E. J. Milner-Gulland2,  D. P. Edwards3+ Author Affiliations
1Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 117543 Singapore.
 2Department of Life Sciences, Silwood Park Campus, Imperial College London, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK.
 3Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.
E-mail: (L.R.C.); (D.P.E.)

With a growing global population and increasing per capita consumption, reconciling agricultural production with biodiversity conservation is a major challenge to humanity (1). A frequently promoted solution to stem the tide of agricultural expansion is to increase crop yields, allowing global demand to be met without further tropical forest losses. Recent genome sequencing of key crops such as oil palm, eucalyptus, rubber, soybean, rice, and cocoa could facilitate substantial yield increases (2–4). Could such yield improvements offer a solution to both tropical forest loss and agricultural demand, or could they pose further challenges to tropical conservation?

World Bank Group - new palm oil sector approach

Khor Reports comment: On 2nd April 2011, The World Bank Group (WBG) announced its "new Framework and IFC Strategy to guide its future engagement in the palm oil sector." This follows-on a freeze on new investments in the sector, followed by months of consultations. WBG says it will focus investments as follows: i) institutional and market initiatives to benefit smallholder development, ii) on projects to improve productivity on existing plantations and iii) it sounds as though funding of new area development would have to be on degraded lands.


WBG says its areas of focus include support for:
• regulatory and governance reforms;
• responsible private investments;
• improved benefit sharing with smallholders and communities; and
• development and widespread adoption of environmentally and socially sustainable standards and codes of practice.

a) "Institutional and market initiatives that support smallholders and foster benefit sharing with rural communities. This will take place by helping to strengthen smallholder producer organizations, promoting their access to finance and markets, improving their agronomy practices and productivity, and fostering fair contractual arrangements with larger companies."
b) "To help protect forests and biodiversity and to move palm oil expansion from forested areas and peat lands, the Bank Group will give priority to initiatives that encourage production on degraded lands and seek to improve productivity of existing plantations."

WBG will scrutinize investments, using "new analytical “tools”, such as a joint World Bank-IFC Country Situation Analysis and IFC’s Risk Screening and Assessment procedure."

Read more about it here: