A recipe for sustainability

A fruitful endeavour

TOSS the fruit of the oil palm in your hand—a reddish-orange lozenge not much bigger than a chestnut—and it is difficult to imagine all the trouble it has caused. At Carey Island, an enormous plantation run by Sime Darby, a Malaysian grower, more than a million shady palm trees buttress Kuala Lumpur’s outermost sprawl. Workers with telescopic scythes cut down fruit bunches a bit bigger than footballs, which break into pieces on the ground. At an old, clanking mill, where the greasy nuggets are pressed and steam-sterilised, the air smells sweetly of syrup.

Yet Carey Island is the presentable face of an industry which has done a lot of harm. Driven by swiftly-rising demand for vegetable oils (see chart 1), over the past two decades the spread of oil-palm plantations has destroyed swathes of tropical forest, releasing much of their trapped carbon into the atmosphere. Indigenous people have been chased off land they had long occupied, and the migrants brought in to tend the plantations have often suffered appalling working conditions.

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via Business Feeds

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