“Humanity’s greed seldom respects boundaries. But even when such boundaries are finally recognized, it often may be too late”. This also rings up the quote from Sir David Attenborough, “I’ve had the most extraordinary life. It is only now that I appreciate how extraordinary”.

Curiously these quotes now seem very apt, as the world screams shortages of cooking oils brought forth by the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Media expose of the rows and rows of empty supermarket shelves as a result of the disrupted edible oil supply chain are a grim reminder of this current global dilemma. Sum up these and we should already anticipate the dark clouds at the horizon’s edge that threaten food security in many nations around the world via edible and cooking oil shortages.

Step back and ponder, because these scenarios are not solely the result of the ongoing war in the European continent but were also in reality cemented by decades of a different war waged by the environmental NGOs against tropical oils. Add to these the policy “tangos”, endorsed by legislators in many Western countries, sold on saving the world’s climate by diverting food grade edible oils into biodiesel as a primary component of their renewable energy mandates. Well, in the current day, all these have gone horribly wrong.

To understand, global oils and fats production in 2021 was 241.4 Million MT and overall consumption actually matched this figure at 241.5 Million MT, creating a rather neat balance in the supply chain and trade. In these overall matrices, palm, soya and sunflower oils accounted for 32%, 25%, and 8% respectively or nearly 157 Million MT. We can clearly recall that during less complex bygone eras when we just filled our cars and trucks with fossil diesel, these oils were almost entirely used for food, with a smaller portion for oleochemicals and even cosmetics.

With spiralling edible oil prices, nobody has yet calculated the real long term nutritional impact. However for seasoned public health officials the long term below-10% fat calorie diets begin to toll disastrous long term detrimental health consequences.

With climate friendly mandates, primarily from Europe and the United States, through reduced transport related emissions, nearly 36 Million MT of various edible oils and fats are currently used as biodiesel. The talk of sustainable aviation biodiesel will likely balloon this beyond comprehension.

Whereas under normal trading periods this was welcome, the combination of the war in Ukraine and Covid associated challenges has disrupted crop outputs and created havoc in the global oils and fats supply chain. Most impacted and reported is Europe with supermarket shelves completely emptied of sunflower oil for home and the hotel-catering (HORECA) industry’s consumption.

But the biggest sufferers are the world’s poor who are struggling to purchase even minimal, essential quantities of edible oils because of the spiralling high prices. Their screams and appeals to avoid hunger and malnutrition are especially and loudly heard from Africa, Asia, and the Indian sub-continent. Even under normal times, these continents were typically under consuming their respective WHO recommended nutritional daily quota for oils and fats.

Typically the WHO recommends fat calories should minimally account for 20% of one’s daily caloric intake. However many low income segments of these population have daily access to oils and fats that dips below 12-15% calories. With spiralling edible oil prices, nobody has yet calculated the real long term nutritional impact. However for seasoned public health officials the long term below-10% fat calorie diets begin to toll disastrous long term detrimental health consequences.

Energy spent on falsifying the image of palm oil must cease and collectively producers need to work with NGOs and foreign legislators to better the current yield potential of the already planted acreage. The oil palm which is the highest yielding among the oil crops needs to push its own barriers and reach its true genetic potential.

(Selengkapnya dapat dibaca di Majalah Sawit Indonesia, Edisi 127)

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