Denpasar, Bali (ANTARA News) - Indonesia has become the biggest palm oil producer in the world with its output last year estimated to total 16 million tons, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said.
Palm oil and its by-products were expected to contribute US$4.8 billion to the country`s foreign exchange earnings this year, he said when opening a conference on palm oil and its price outlook in 2008 here Wednesday.
"Opportunities to produce palm oil in the country are still wide open thanks to the availability of the needed resources and technology," he said.
Global demand for palm oil had of late shown an upward trend following worldwide campaigns to develop alternative energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, he said.
"Therefore, we need to continue to develop oil palm plantations in areas where such plantations are agro-economically feasible," he said.
Despite the good prospects of the palm oil business, development of oil palm plantations had came under fire for failing to observe environmental conservation principles, he said.
"Deforestation and loss of biodiversity are two aspects we cannot ignore in developing bio-fuel for export to Europe," he said.
Therefore, the principle of sustainable development which served as the basis for the development of palm oil must really be observed, he said.
To improve Indonesia`s image as a palm oil producer in the eyes of the world community, the government and palm oil society were holding workshops on promoting sustainable palm oil in a number of European countries such as the Netherlands and Britian, he said.(*)