Palm oil imports on the rise again

© Hollandse Hoogte / Henk Braam
After years of decline, Dutch imports of palm oil increased again in 2017. Over 2 billion euros worth of crude palm oil, palm oil fractions and palm kernel oil were imported, 22 percent more than in 2016. Most palm oil originates from Indonesia and Malaysia, but an increase is seen in imports from Latin America. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on the basis of provisional trade figures.

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Crude palm oil is a plant oil derived from palm fruits. Palm oil is also extracted from the kernel: palm kernel oil. A multitude of food products contain palm oil, including margarine, baby food, crisps, soups, sauces and biscuits. In addition, palm oil is used as raw material in the production of animal feeds, soap, shampoo, cosmetics and biodiesel, for example.

The increase in the value of palm oil imports can be attributed, in almost equal parts, to price rises and volume growth. In 2017, the import of crude palm oil, palm oil fractions and palm kernel oil amounted to 2.8 billion kilograms. The volume of imports was highest in 2013 at 3.2 billion kg. The highest import value of palm oil was reached in 2012: 2.3 billion euros.

Dutch imports of palm oil
 Value (euro) (billion)Volume (kg) (billion)

Netherlands largest palm oil trader within EU

With over 2 billion euros, the Netherlands is by far the largest importer of palm oil within the European Union, followed by Spain, Germany, Italy and Belgium. The bulk of Dutch palm oil imports consists of crude palm oil (72 percent). This share is considerably higher than in the other importing countries. The remainder of palm oil imports is related to palm oil fractions (15 percent), crude palm kernel oil (11 percent) and palm kernel oil fractions (2 percent).

With a value of 1.3 billion euros, the Netherlands is also the largest palm oil exporter of the EU, followed by Germany at a great distance. For the most part (84 percent), Dutch exports come from palm oil fractions, extracted from imported crude palm oil. This production process takes place in the Netherlands. Crude palm oil and palm kernel oil are rarely exported from here.

EU countries with highest palm oil import and export values, 2017
 Crude palm oil (billion euros)Palm oil fractions (billion euros)Crude palm kernel oil (billion euros)Palm kernel oil fractions (billion euros)
Top 5 importing countries
Top 5 exporting countries
Source: CBS, Eurostat

More and more palm oil from Latin America

By far the largest part of Dutch palm oil imports originates from the following six countries: Indonesia (31 percent), Malaysia (20 percent), Papua New Guinea (14 percent), Colombia (10 percent), Honduras and Guatemala (both 9 percent). Imports from all these countries except Malaysia were up compared to 2016.

Relative to 2008, there has been a significant change in country distribution. Whereas in 2008, as much as 86 percent of palm oil came from either Indonesia or Malaysia, their share dropped to just over half (51 percent) in 2017. During the same period, the share of imports from Latin American countries increased from 3 to 29 percent.

Palm oil import value in the Netherlands by country of origin
 2008 (million euros)2016 (million euros)2017 (million euros)
Papua New Guinea47159285