Palm oil is found in most consumer goods, from cosmetics to confectionery. Worldwide consumption of palm oil had been increasing in recent years and would most likely increase in the near future. This is in part fueled by demand from China and especially India, the world’s largest buyer of edible oils. In 2018, Malaysian exports made up around a third of the global palm oil exports, and especially to Malaysia's key palm oil export markets: India, the European Union, and China. Despite increasing global demand, Malaysian exports of palm oil had decreased from 2012, although production volume remained relatively consistent. Malaysian domestic consumption of palm oil was not enough to make up for the drop in exports. This could be due to the Malaysian palm oil market being hit by several challenges in recent years, such as the knock-off effects of the US-China trade war in 2019, political tensions between the governments of Malaysia and India vis-à-vis India’s policy in Kashmir, and the growing backlash against palm oil from largely European consumers due to the negative environmental effects of palm oil cultivation.
Despite the environmental damage that had been attributed to palm oil cultivation, it is still the most widely used edible vegetable oil worldwide. This is because palm oil is currently one of the cheapest and most versatile edible oils available. Until now, no viable alternative has yet been found. This should come as good news to Malaysia. Even so, its palm oil industry would need to proactively address growing global concerns on the environmental impact of palm oil production. The Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification is one such initiative, and Malaysian officials are confident that MSPO-certified palm oil could be exported to the European Union as early as 2020.