Colombia - The Land of the Oil Palm Tree
Colombia is the world's fifth producer of palm oil and the leading producer in Latin America . Palm growing is one of the country's most promising and important agricultural sectors and is at the heart of Colombia 's economic and social development.
Oil palm, Elaeis guineensis, was first introduced to Colombia in 1932. But it was only in the mid-20th century that oil palm growing in Colombia first started to be commercialized across the country, backed by government policies aimed at developing farmland and supplying Colombia with locally produced palm oil.
As part of the government's plans to back and promote the oleaginous crop, oil palm was first grown in the Caribbean coastal plains, in the middle Magdalena River valley, the foothills and plains of the llanos and in southwest Colombia . Both palm growers and Fedepalma have played an important role in the development and strengthening of the oil palm industry as a whole.
As a result of these efforts, during the 1980's, the number of hectares of oil palm in Colombia had tripled. By now, oil palm was the country's most important raw material in the production chain of oil seeds and oils and fats. In the 1990's, efforts focused on improving the competitiveness of oil palm companies and Fedepalma sought to help palm growers compete and meet the challenges they faced in the 21st century.
Palm oil and palm kernel oil accounts for 90% of oils and fats produced domestically and almost 60% of all oils consumed in Colombia . Since 1990, palm oil exports have increased significantly and make up an important share of Colombian agroindustrial exports.
The areas with the highest number of hectares of oil palm are (in order): The departments of Meta (1), Cesar (2), Santander (3), Magdalena (4), Nariño (5), Casanare (6), Bolívar (7), Cundinamarca (8), Chocó (9),
and Norte de Santander (10). Other departments with oil palm plantations are: Atlántico, Caquetá, La Guajira , Córdoba, Antioquia, and Arauca .
Oil Palm – An ecological crop
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world. The country's rich biodiversity is found in its national parks and protected state forest reserves. In addition, a large number of oil palm plantations and estates are found in Colombia 's natural ecosystems. For this reason, the oil palm sector places great importance on following policies which promote sustainable development.
Oil palm are planted in a triangular, with a distance of around 9 meters separating each other. Trees are planted in straight lines and can cover tens, hundreds and even thousands of hectares. As palm trees grow and mature, the area becomes like a forest where a variety of flora and fauna live.
As a result of photosynthesis, palm trees can fix large amounts of carbon gas and in such a way help to lessen the effects of global warming. Micro-climates form around palm plantations which contribute to the sustainability of other crops and benefit communities living nearby.
In Colombia , palm plantations are set up without having to cut down native forest areas and are built in regions which were once used for farming. Colombian palm growers are committed to caring for the environment and have adopted a range of good practices which allow them to maintain a competitive edge and promote sustainability, while complying with international standards.
The Oil Palm – A Social Crop
The Colombian oil palm sector plays an important role in peaceful and sustainable development across the country.
Today, Fedepalma is proud of the fact that in 73 of Colombia 's municipalities, making up half of all the country's provinces, the oil palm industry provides 80,000 jobs benefiting thousands of families and generating regional development.
The oil palm community is made up of small, medium and large-scale oil palm growers, agricultural workers, administrative staff, technicians and professionals with different areas of expertise and numerous companies with diverging interests in agriculture and industry. A whole range of people make up the oil palm community, who bring different experiences and levels of expertise to the sector. Though people working in the oil palm sector have different roles, they are united by their undettering work ethic and commitment.
Across Colombia 's oil palm growing regions, Fedepalma forges strategic links between medium, large-scale palm growers and small-scale farmers. They all contribute to the palm industry's progress by sharing their knowledge, cultures and efforts, from which everyone can benefit from.