Infocongo : Industrial Palm Oil in Congo Basin: Are Countries Ready?
Large-scale palm oil investment in the Congo Basin has taken a new dimension in recent years. For many, the region has become the new palm oil frontier of the world.
Overall, about 1.1 million hectares of land deals have been signed in the region since the early part of the last decade. Figures from an international advocacy group, Greenpeace indicate that there are about 27 industrial palm oil plantations in Central and West Africa. Most of these projects are owned by companies from Malaysia, France, Belgium, Italy, China, Singapore, US, Canada, and Spain.
With soaring global demand, the Congo Basin has become a source of cheap and affordable land for palm oil production at industrial scale. But is the region ready both from an institutional capacity and legal framework perspective?
“No,” says Irène Wabiwa, Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa. “Countries are not prepared for palm oil production at industrial scale. They still have a long way to go.”
“There are still many preconditions to be put in place by governments to make sure agribusinesses of such magnitude are a win-win for all parties involved.”
The absence of proper land use plans in many countries of the region explains the apprehensions of experts. “Governments must have an adequate and transparent land use plan,” says the Kinshasa-based Greenpeace campaigner.
Contacted by phone from New York, Puvan Jegeraj Selvanathan, a former executive board member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international alliance of palm oil stakeholders promoting sustainable practices and former executive of Sime Darby, told InfoCongo that in most cases, governments do not have the needed information to hand out concessions.