Palm oil—the world’s most consumed cooking oil—took a heavy blow at the start of the week as Sri Lanka banned its import and told planters to phase out the tropical trees in favour of rubber or other environment-friendly crops.
Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered companies and other entities growing oil palm to remove the trees in a phased manner. They have been asked to uproot 10% of the trees each year and replace the fields with rubber or other environment-friendly crops, according to an official statement late on Monday.
The aim was “to free Sri Lanka from oil palm plantation and palm oil consumption” the statement said.
Among the publicly listed firms that have palm oil are Watawala, Namunukula, Elpitiya and Agalawatte. Environmentalists say palm oil production has led to widespread deforestation and damage to ecosystems. The island nation imports around 200,000 tonnes of palm oil every year, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, a Reuters report, citing traders estimate, said.
“Additionally, the Director-General of Customs has been informed of this decision and advised to refrain from clearing palm oil cargos at the Department of Customs,” the statement said. “At the same time the cultivation of oil palm will be completely banned.”
Orders have been issued to ban the cultivation of oil palm completely. Six months ago President Rajapaksa had instructed to “gradually ban” the cultivation of palm oil.