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  • A palm oil plantation in the Colombian town of Maria La Baja, in the northern province of Bolivar.

    A palm oil plantation in the Colombian town of Maria La Baja, in the northern province of Bolivar. | Photo: EFE

Published 9 February 2016

The palm oil industry rubs its hands together in glee as the Colombian government supports expansion, in spite of the damage it will cause to campesinos and the environment.

Colombia will seek to increase palm oil plantations by 150,000 hectares in the next three years, William Granados Perez, a Ministry of Agriculture official, said Monday.

The Ministry of Agriculture plans to invest almost US$480 million in order to increase the total number of hectares currently used for palm oil production from 7 million to 8 million, Granados explained during a forum on palm oil organized by EFE and sponsored by Spanish-based company Palmvit, leader in the world market, and the National Federation of Palm Oil Cultivators, Fedepalma.

Fedepalma President Jens Mesa Dishington and Spanish Ambassador to Colombia Ramon Gandarias Alonso de Celis both agreed on the new “huge” potential of palm oil industry in the country in face of the peace agreement that the government and FARC rebels of Colombia are about sign in Havana, Cuba.

Mesa recalled that the government has repeatedly mentioned plans to make substitute coca plantations with the cultivation of palm oil.

However, in Colombia, the largest palm producer in Latin America and fourth largest in the world, oil palm plantations have expanded by resorting to deforestation and displacement of campesinos.

While the industry prides itself on expanding largely into low-productivity grasslands instead of tropical forests, these same zones are often cleared of their inhabitants through paramilitary violence.

ANALYSIS: Palm Oil’s Corporate Deception: Green-Washing a Dirty Industry

The Colombian government, with the joint cooperation of paramilitaries and big agribusinesses, has “violently removed” Afro-Colombians, Indigenous people, and campesinos to make way for palm monocultures, according to the food and development policy institute Food First.

What’s more, Rainforest Rescue reports that a supplier of so-called organic and ecological palm oil in Colombia, Daabon Group, has been found responsible for “serious accidents and spills, excessive use of water, pollution, deforestation and the eviction of small farmers from their land.”

The production of palm oil, a chemically intensive crop grown as a monoculture, requires heavy use of an industrial pesticide called Malathion.

WATCH: High Demand for Palm Oil Fuels Environmental Destruction

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