0.1 Economic aspects
Over the last two decades, world production and consumption of
oil fruits and oil seeds and their products has almost doubled. In terms of
value, oil fruits and oil seeds now take third place after starch plants and
Apart from their nutritious value, oil fruits and oil seeds are
of particular economic importance for the developing countries, from where a
substantial part of the (statistically registered) world production originates.
In Africa, Asia and Latin America, the cultivation of oil plants not only plays
a major role in the provision of protein and fats, but contributes considerably
to exports earnings.
Table 1 reflects the development of world production of major
oil seeds as registered by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United
Nations. The figures given for the last 15 years, however, do not necessarily
reflect the total for each crop, since, in many countries, there is a
significant production for the growers' domestic requirements which never
appears in official statistics.
Table 1: World Production of Major Oil
Seeds (million tons).
Source: FAO Production Yearbooks, Vols. 35 39
- For Coconuts, production is expressed in terms of weight of
the whole nuts, excluding only the fibrous outer husk, whether ripe or unripe,
whether consumed fresh or processed into copra or dessicated coconut
Cottonseed, direct production figures are reported by countries accounting for
about 60 % of world production, data for the remainder are derived from ginned
- Groundouts in shell
- For Rapeseed, figures include
mustard seed for a few countries (e.g. India and Pakistan)
As can be seen in Table 2, soyabeans have established a leading
position and now represent more than 40 % in volume terms of world production.
If the annual increase in production is considered, rapeseed, with an average
increase of more than 12% per year, has an even more positive trend than
soyabeans, followed by palm kernels and sunflower seed. Palm kernels are, in
fact, to be seen as by-product of palm oil production. The production of palm
oil fruit, however, is not recorded, and therefore palm kernels can indicate the
growth for the whole crop
Table 2: World Production of Major
Vegetable Oils (million tons)
Sources: Oil World, Vol. XX. No. 13, p. 302 f Marches Tropicaux,
No. 2112, p. 1167
World production of major vegetable oils, as shown in Table 2,
has been steadily increasing over the past decades with average annual growth
rates of more than 5 %. In volume terms, the total (recorded) production now
stands at more than 60 million tons per year, which contributes more than two
thirds to the world consumption of all edible oils.
Table 3: World Exports of Major Oil
Seeds (million tons)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbooks, Vols. 25-39
- For Groundnuts, nuts reported in the shell are converted to
shelled equivalent using a conversion factor of 70 %
- For Rape and Mustard
seed, most trade statistics do not allow a distinction, and figures in many
instances even include other minor oil seeds
The great increase in the production of soyabean oil has been
the major development on this market in the past decades. Due to the
introduction of the hydrogenation technique, which made the oil suitable for
margarine, and the rapid increase in demand for soya cattle cakes, world
production of soyabean oil tripled over the last 20 years.
The production of vegetable oils from palmfruits, sunflowerseed
and rape/mustard has doubled over the same period. The group of oils made from
cottonseed, groundnut and coconut, however, is more or less constant. Since many
vegetable oils are direct competitors, the relative importance of these oils may
well change in the future, but the dominance of soyabean oil is unlikely to
In terms of volume of world production, other vegetable oils are
of minor or only regional importance. Olive oil, for example, is almost
exclusively produced in the mediterranean countries where it meets a unique
consumer preference. Since it has not gained acceptance in other regions, olive
oil will not be dealt with in the present publication. Other oils, however, are
of particular relevance for specific areas in developing countries (e.g. sheanut
in West-Africa) and will therefore be described in more detail than their
overall importance would appear to justify.
World trade in oil fruits and oil seeds, as shown in Table 3, is
even more dominated by soyabeans than the production figures seem to indicate.
With one quarter to one third of the total production entering the world market,
soyabeans is in fact the only oilcrop with considerable exports in an
unprocessed condition. Most prominent exporter is the USA, which has two thirds
of the whole market. The soyabean exports of all developing countries together
only amount to about half of this share, showing South America (Argentina and
Brazil) in a leading position. The main direction of the soyabean trade is
towards Europe, which imports more than half of the available quantity.
Of more relevance to the developing countries is the world trade
in vegetable oils. As shown in Table 4, palm oil alone accounts for about one
third of the trade, the major exporters being Malaysia and Indonesia, with
Singapore as the major port of the region. Prior to 1945, Africa produced and
exported most palm oil, but has now lost this position due to the massive
planting of high yielding varieties in South East Asia. For palm oil, Asia has
also the highest demand, although import statistics do not correspond to actual
consumption due to substantial re-exports (Singapore).
Table 4: World Exports of Major
Vegetable Oils (million tons) * no records
Source: FAO Trade Yearbooks, Vols. 25-39
- In general, figures do not reflect entire world trade since
some national statistics classify all or a large part of their trade under such
headings as edible oils", vegetable oils, nes" etc. and therefore
have been omitted
Whereas coconut and palm oils are almost exclusively exported
from developing countries, they are able to supply three quarters of the world
market for linseed oil and groundnut oil and even realize shares of about 50 %
for sunflower, cottonseed and soyabean oils. Major suppliers in these markets
are currently Malaysia (palm and palm kernel oil), Philippines (coconut oil),
Brazil (soyabean and groundout oil) and Argentina (linseed and sunflower oil).
The world trade in vegetable oils is, to a considerable extent
influenced by the demand for by-products (oilseed cake and meal) and the prices
of others chemically similar, i.e. competing vegetable oils.
As shown in Table 5, the trade in oilseed cake and meal consists
to more than 70 % of the by-product of soyabean; a crop for which the meal is -
due to the low oil content - relatively more important than the oil. A great
advantage of the soyabean and, in fact, a reason for the production increase, is
that it can be freely fed to all livestock groups. Major exporters of soyabean
meal are Brazil, USA and Argentina, the major importing region is West Europe.
Table 5: World Exports of Oilseed Cake
and Meal (million tons)
Source: FAO Trade Yearbooks, Vols. 25-39
As illustrated in Figure 1, world market prices for vegetable
oils depend as much on the specific variety of oil as on apparently periodical
fluctuations. The different characteristics of vegetable oils, which determine
the relative scarcity and the possible use of the product, will be discussed in
more detail in Chapter 1.1 of this publication.
Figure 1: World Prices for Selected
Vegetable Oils (monthly average quotations, West European ports) in US $ per
Source: E. A. Weiss, Oilseed Crops, 1983, p. 9
The price fluctuations tend to assume a cyclic pattern with a
periodicity of several years. During this period, stock build-up leads to more
demand and subsequently higher prices, followed by a period of stock liquidation
with the opposite price effect with shorter periods of market consolidation in
between. As reported in market observations of Marches Tropicaux" (5/86),
prices for specific oils have, over the last few years, shown fluctuations of
more than 300 % (based on the lower price). In absolute terms, the price for
coconut oil, for example, rose from about 400 $/t (CIF, Rotterdam) in 1983 to
about 1400 $/t in the following year only to fall back to the 1983 low the year
after. Except for soyabean, prices in the last two to three years have taken
another drastic downturn and are likely to stabilize at a relatively low level.
For certain vegetable oils or specific qualities of oils, only
regional or even local markets have been established. Accordingly, no
representative market data are available for these products. For the African
context, however, the following examples should demonstrate that these local
markets can show particular consumer preferences and do not necessarily follow
the same trend as the world market for the major varieties.
In nearly all oil palm growing countries in West Africa, the red
palm oil is an important food ingredient. The colour and the taste from the oil
of the traditional aura variety are generally more highly valued than those from
the (hybrid) tenera variety. Also, the taste of the oil processed by traditional
methods is preferred. In Benin, Cameroon and Nigeria about 50 % of the palm oil
consumed is produced in the traditional way. In Ghana and Sierra Leone it is
even 70 % and 90 % respectively.
In the Pacific Islands and along the coast of West Africa,
coconut oil is also produced in a traditional way. Although this kind of oil has
a particularly preferred taste its keeping quality is reported to be low. Shea
nut butter is an important fat in Burkina Faso and Mali and also has a special
taste that is highly regarded.
Most of these traditionally produced oil varieties are only
available in a certain season of the year, which leads to low market prices at
harvest time and co-nversely to high prices out of