RSPO Facts and Figures

Africa (and West Africa in particular) is a new frontier region for large-scale palm oil production. Many companies that already have existing plantations and other investors are now looking to expand their operations into this region to meet the growing demand for the commodity.

  • The oil palm plant originated in West Africa and grows extensively in this region, but largely as village low-yield multi-crop stands; however, few publicly or privately owned agro-industrial estates are currently in existence.
  • Yield is much lower in Africa than in Southeast Asia for various reasons, including climate and infrastructural limitations and a predominantly smallholder approach to production. It is debatable whether comparative yields are achievable even with investment and improved growing techniques.
  • Smallholders account for 70–90% (depending on the country) of African oil palm growers.
  • Africa is a net importer of palm oil.
  • Rubber and cocoa are more profitable crops then oil palm at present.
  • Developments for sustainable palm oil are at the very early stage and are likely to be determined by the pace of agro-industrial project developments.
  • In early 2011, Ghana was the first country in Africa to have its National Interpretation (NI) of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria for sustainable palm oil approved.
  • Ghana has 336,000 hectares planted with oil palm; it is a net importer to meet its demands for palm oil.
  • After years of civil war, poverty, and food insecurity, Liberia is now looking to palm oil as a development opportunity and is focusing on a smallholder approach using modern techniques and technology, recognising the need for education and training of farmers.
  • Downstream, Africa’s only consumer goods manufacturer member of the RSPO is D H Brothers Industries (Pty) Ltd of South Africa, and the sole retailer member is Woolworths (Proprietary) Ltd, also of South Africa.
  • D H Brothers Industries (Pty) Ltd produces margarine and industrial and baking fats. The company supplies deodorised palm olein to McDonalds and various fast-food restaurants as well as other industrial users of palm olein and other palm products.
  • In August 2012, the US-based company Herakles Farms withdrew its application for RSPO certification of a 70,000 hectare plantation in Cameroon following complaints filed with the RSPO against it by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The company and its subsidiary Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon have been accused of violating both Cameroonian law and the RSPO Principles and Criteria.

A table showing the number of RSPO members in Africa according to membership categoryInformation courtesy of RSPO

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For more information about the palm oil industry in Africa, see the useful weblinks and publications sections.

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Smallholder growers in Kalangala, Uganda

Smallholders in Kalangala, Uganda © Sophia Gnych