Providing long-term financing to oil palm smallholders for urgently needed replanting purposes has the potential to promote more sustainable supply chains in palm oil production. This is required as demand for palm oil is expected to rise significantly in the coming decades.
High costs and risk in agricultural lending deter banks from providing finance to oil palm smallholders which, however, is urgently needed mainly for replanting. Depriving smallholders from access to finance leads to continued deforestation (often 'slash and burn') instead of replanting as well as usage of low-quality crop and other unsustainable agricultural practices.
By providing access to long-term finance, oil palm smallholders are encouraged to replant rather than exploit additional agricultural land through deforestation. There is also an urgent need to support farmers with income generation alternatives to bridge the 3-5 years of production gap after replanting. Recognizing the key role of smallholders in meeting the large and growing global demand for palm oil, various innovative financing schemes initiated by the private sector, commercial banks, impact investors, development finance institutions and governments have emerged.
This brief evaluates past and current policies and financing schemes as well as their outcomes for smallholders in terms of income security, sustainable practices and the environment in the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also analyzes financing schemes that could contribute to sustainable smallholder oil palm development in such a way that the supply base of smallholders can be secured or can expand with improved sustainability practices compared to past and existing schemes.