Examining the trade-offs of palm oil production and consumption from a sustainable diets perspective: Lessons learned from Myanmar

Shauna M. Downs, Khristopher Nicholas, Kay Khine Linn, Jessica Fanzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the trade-offs related to the production and consumption of palm oil in Myanmar from a sustainable diets perspective. Design: We used an enhanced value chain analysis approach that included semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders; market analyses to assess edible oils in markets and focus groups as well as surveys with consumers to ascertain their perceptions and practices related to edible oils. Setting: Four settings in Myanmar (upper income urban; lower income urban; middle-income urban; lower income rural). Participants: Key stakeholders (n 12) from government, trade bodies and civil society organisations were included in the interviews. Women from each of the regions participated in four focus groups (n 32), and a convenience sample of male and female consumers participated in the surveys (n 362). Results: We found mistrust of the oil sector overall. Poor production practices, leading to low yields, limit the economic viability of oil palm production in Myanmar and contribute to negative environmental (e.g. deforestation) and social outcomes (e.g. land conflicts). Consumers demonstrated low preferences for palm oil as compared with traditional oils from a taste, health and transparency perspective; however, they indicated that its relative low cost led to its purchase over other oils. Conclusions: The Burmese example suggests that there may be limited benefits, and significant costs, of investing in palm oil production in regions where there are coordinating disincentives from a sustainable diets perspective. However, if oil palm cultivation is to continue, there are opportunities to improve its economic viability and environmental sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Keywords

  • Consumer preferences
  • Myanmar
  • Palm oil
  • Value chain analysis

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