RESTREPO, Colombia – Production of oil palm has the potential to become a growth engine for Colombian agriculture, the president of the National Federation of Oil Palm Growers, or Fedepalma, told Efe.
“Palm is one of the best positioned alternatives for the future development of Colombian farming,” Lens Mesa said, pointing out that the crop already accounts for 6 percent of Colombia’s agricultural gross domestic product.
Last year, according to the Fedepalma chief, exports of oil palm and derivatives from the six major producers – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia, Nigeria and Ecuador – amounted to $28.8 billion.
The global market for oil palm offers opportunities for economic diversification, which has taken on added significance for Colombia as the fall in crude oil prices has caused a 12.5 trillion pesos ($4.8 billion) shortfall in the budget, Mesa said.
“Colombia is a tropical country with an abundance of unexploited land, two favorable conditions for palm growing,” he said.
Fedepalma concluded on Thursday the 43rd National Congress of Oil Palm Growers, an event that brought more than 800 experts and executives to Restrepo.
Colombia, with an annual production of 1.2 million tons of palm oil, is Latin America’s largest producer and No. 4 globally, Fedepalma says.
“Oil palm has an enormous potential in Colombia,” said Luis Francisco Dangond, the chairman of Fedepalma’s board, adding that the industry generates 140,000 jobs.
Palm oil is used in the elaboration of cosmetic, foods, soaps and biodiesel, among other applications, and demand for the product is growing at the rate of 8.2 percent annually, Dangond said.
Colombia exported $233 million in oil palm and derivates last year, a 28.8 percent increase over 2013, according to the Commerce, Industry and Tourism Ministry.
Exports will increase in the next four years as recent plantings mature and boost Colombia’s output to 2 million tons a year, Fedepalma said.