PALM OIL

Colombia 2017 | AGRICULTURE | B2B

With significant potential to grow in agriculture and palm in particular, Colombia needs to attract greater investment and enforce the appropriate regulations.

Jens Mesa-Dishington
JENS MESA-DISHINGTON
Executive President
National Federation of Oil Palm Growers (Fedepalma)
Carlo Vigna Taglianti
CARLO VIGNA TAGLIANTI
Director General
Poligrow

How can the palm oil sector contribute towards rural development and reintegration in the post-conflict era?

JENS MESA-DISHINGTON Colombia has a large territory, about 114 million ha. Of those, 43 million ha are suitable for agriculture, but only 7 million are being cultivated. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN has identified Colombia as one of seven countries with the greatest potential to grow in agriculture. When talking about post-conflict, in many cases, it involves rural areas. Colombia will develop via its agriculture sector. What I worry about is that public leaders discuss an urban model but do not have many ideas about opportunities in the rural sector. If we are discussing opportunities in the rural sector, palm oil comes first on the list as an important sector with many opportunities. The question is what does Colombia need to do to lure investors? A sector like palm oil can grow in Colombia; however, we need investors.

CARLO VIGNA Taglianti Poligrow is fully committed to the post-conflict era. We started to work in Meta, which had been 100% controlled by coca dealers. Local communities would be struggling to make a living if they were not involved in coca plantations. When Poligrow started operations here, we applied two strategies to improve the conditions of the local community. Firstly, we offered them job opportunities. Secondly, we created the Poligrow Foundation, which provides local people basic needs such as energy, electricity, and proper nutrition, while helping them to overcome difficulties. One of the pillars of Poligrow is to improve the quality of life in these communities. A second is to provide quality education and allow locals to secure a better future. We started different programs, not only training them for harvesting palm but also in other general skills. The project has produced 500 direct jobs and an additional 200 indirect ones. People are coming back to the area and witnessing the engagement the company has with the local community

What is your outlook on how much the sector can grow in the short term?

JMD We agreed that we would not place any growth targets as that is a private sector concern; however, our goal is to have better conditions for investors. If we increase our growth rates, that is the best indicator that things are working well. When the rate of growth is slow, that means perhaps things need to be changed. We have had periods when this sector has grown over 10% per year. Many saw throughout those years how much can be done in Colombia. A sector like palm oil is great for a country such as Colombia, especially for its sustainability. The world demands more vegetable oil and there are many opportunities here. Colombia created at some point the conditions for this sector to grow, and if we do not do it again, others will.

CVT The first African palm oil plantation was established in Colombia in 1960. The geographical location, climate, and conditions of the country made it an ideal location to harvest palm. Because Colombia has plains available for plantation, there is no need for deforestation to establish new crops. This characteristic allows harvests to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Colombia is also in a strategic location to send palm oil to Asia through the Pacific Ocean and Europe across the Atlantic. Colombia is currently the fourth-largest producer of palm oil in the world. There is a great deal of potential for growth, especially regarding refining processes and manufacturing products derived from palm oil. This poses a great opportunity for the palm oil business sector to further invest in Colombia. An interesting fact is that to produce palm oil, only one-third of the land is required in comparison to producing other types of oil. This is an advantage because by 2050 the global population will be around 10 billion and arable land will be a primary concern.