BARRANQUILLA, Colombia – Latin American palm oil producers, particularly those in Colombia, currently have a big competitive advantage over their counterparts in Asia, industry experts said at the Palmex Latinoamerica 2016 trade fair.
Some 1,500 specialists from companies at all levels took part in the conference, held Wednesday and Thursday at this northern city’s Puerta de Oro Caribbean Events Center, showcasing the latest developments in the palm oil industry.
Held for the first time in Latin America, the event highlighted a new growth model in the region that is based on extracting vitamins and phytonutrients from palm oil in addition to harvesting that tropical crop for food and palm-oil-based biofuels, bio-lubricants and surfactants.
“While in Asian countries production is associated with deforestation, in Latin America this difficulty hasn’t arisen,” the director of the Association of Palm Oil Producers in Honduras, Hector Castro, said.
“There’s a big competitive advantage vis-a-vis Asia, which is that of having a sustainable environmental model,” he added.
Castro, who also heads the company Bio-combustible y Salud (Biosa), said there was great potential for exporting to the United States due to that country’s trans-fat ban and palm oil’s potential as a health food.
A unit of Corporacion Industrial de Sula, Biosa grows palm trees, produces palm oil, refines it and also processes its fatty acids to extract highly concentrated phytonutrients and biodiesel.
Honduras has become the first Latin American country to develop a comprehensive growth model for fully unlocking palm oil’s potential.
For his part, Raul Eduardo Garcia of the Santa Marta, Colombia-based palm oil trading company Comercializadora Internacional Biocosta said palm oil production in that Andean nation creates 200,000 direct jobs, 60 percent of which are formal positions.
“It’s very important to keep in mind that those jobs are being created in areas of Colombia where there was (armed) conflict. In other words, we’re contributing to peace in the country,” he said.
Latin America currently accounts for around 6 percent of global palm oil production, while Indonesia and Malaysia are responsible for between 85 percent and 90 percent.
Colombia ranks fourth among palm oil producing nations with output of 1.28 million metric tons annually.