Major Producing and Consuming Countries/Regions

The Author: Frank D. Gunstone, James Hutton Institute (and Mylnefield Lipid Analysis), Invergowrie, Dundee (DD2 5DA), Scotland

General View

Comments on the figures in the Table

  • The figures relate to countries and regions with the largest consumption (15 countries), largest production (7 countries), largest exports (7 countries) and largest imports (10 countries). Blank spaces are not zero but figures-not-available from the USDA source.
  • Not surprisingly, production levels are largest in SE Asian countries producing palm oil and in the countries of North and South America and China producing soybean oil. In terms of location, oil production does not correspond exactly with oilseed production since oilseeds may be exported before crushing. In contrast, palm oil can only be exported as oil and therefore palm oil is produced and exported from the same countries.
Table 1. Countries and regions with the largest consumption, production, exports and imports of nine major vegetable oils in 2011/12.
Also listed are population (millions) and annual disappearance for all purposes in kg/person/year
(Sources: USDA February 2013 for vegetable oils and Wikipedia for population)
  China 1354 29.24 21.00   9.23 21.6
  EU-27 504 23.54 16.79 2.05 8.68 46.7
  India 1210 16.89     10.03 14.0
  USA 315 12.81 10.06   3.83 40.7
  Indonesia 238 8.92 29.89 20.53   37.4
  Brazil 194 6.45 7.92 1.94   33.2
  Malaysia 30 4.76 20.38 17.61 2.67 158.7
  Pakistan 182 3.49     2.19 19.2
  Argentina 40 3.58 8.35 4.64   89.5
  Russia 143 3.22       22.5
  Mexico 117 2.22       19.0
  Egypt 84 2.29     2.29 27.3
  Japan 127 2.16       17.0
  Nigeria 167 1.86       11.1
  Turkey 76 1.79     1.12 23.6
  Bangladesh 153       1.40  
  Canada 35     2.75    
  Ukraine 46     3.33    
  Iran 77       1.24  
  Other   26.84 41.33 10.63 18.41  

  TOTAL 7072 150.03 155.71 63.47 61.09 21.2


  • For any country/region, (production plus imports) is close to (consumption plus exports). Small differences between these two totals result in changing levels of stocks.
  • For consumption, the list is headed by two rich countries (Europe and USA) and by two highly populated countries (China and India). For the most part the countries in this list have high populations (mostly in excess of 100 million) and/or are significant producers of palm oil or soybean oil.
  • Interesting results are associated with countries with low populations such as Malaysia, Argentina, Canada, and Ukraine (see Table). Because of the limited local demand these countries are significant exporters. Australia could be added to this list but output in that country has fallen from almost 2,500 tonnes of seed (mainly rapeseed and cottonseed) to under 1,000 tonnes in 2006/07 because of severe drought conditions. In 2008/09, it was again around 2500 tonnes.
  • The figures in the final column represent average consumption per person for both food and non-food purposes and are given in kg/person/year. They are of limited use but provide useful comparisons between countries. The world average of 21.2 kg/person/year in 2011/12 applies only to the major vegetable oils and is lower by about 20% than sets of figures that include animal fats. Nonfood uses (animal feed, the conventional oleochemical industry, and biodiesel) now represent about 25% of total consumption based on vegetable and animal fats. However, the oleochemical industry previously concentrated in USA, Western Europe, Japan, is now increasingly in Malaysia and Indonesia with indigenous supplies of the palm and palmkernel oils extensively used by the oleochemical industry. The average consumption in Malaysia (159 kg/person/year) relates to the large industrial use along with the modest demand for food use consequent on the small population in that country. Oleochemical and biodiesel production is also reflected in the well-above-average figures for Europe, USA, Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia.
  • Three countries (Bangladesh, India, and Nigeria) have lower levels of 11-14 kg/person. However, it has to be appreciated that lipid consumption for food purposes comes also from sources beyond those being considered here, such as dairy products (cheese, cream) other than butter, from meat and fish, and from nuts and chocolate.



Enlargement of the EU has brought some changes to the supply-demand equation in vegetable oils, but the biggest change results from the growing manufacture and use of biodiesel in Europe, produced mainly from rapeseed oil. The following points are worth noting:

  • EU-27 is heavily dependent for its supply of oils and fats on imported seeds and imported oils. In 2011/12 home-grown and imported seeds represented 64 and 36% of the total, respectively. For vegetable oils these figures were 66% and 34% with much of the home-produced oil being obtained from imported seed.
  • In contrast to large producer countries Europe makes use of a wider range of oils. In addition to the four major seed oils detailed in Table 1, there is a significant consumption of olive oil, of three animal fats (tallow, lard, and butter), and of lesser amounts of the lauric oils.
Table 1. Seed grown and oil imported and consumed (million tonnes) in
EU-27 during 2011/12 (USDA figures, February 2013)
  Palm   5.25 2.67 2.21 5.13
  Rape 19.08 0.60 2.30 7.00 9.30
  Soya 1.29 0.38 1.04 0.88 1.98
  Sunflower 8.29 0.96 3.42 0.23 3.65
  Other 0.55 1.49 2.968 0.49 3.47

Total 29.21 8.68 12.39 10.81 23.54
"Other" will be mainly palmkernel and coconut, and olive oil grown mainly in the Mediterranean countries of
Spain, Italy and Greece (see Olive oil).
Imported seed (mainly soybean) was 16.75 million tonnes.
Total figures include some nonfood uses other than industrial (e.g. animal feed).


  • Though not apparent in these figures, I have shown elsewhere that there is a marked variation between individual European countries. Some examples for 2007 are cited: rapeseed oil represented 26% of European consumption, but ranged from 50% in Germany to 1% in Spain, palm oil represented 16% of European consumption, but ranged from 34% in UK to 10% in Spain, olive oil represented 7% of European consumption, but exceeded 22% in Spain and Italy and was less than 1% in Germany and Poland, butter represented 6% of European consumption, but ranged from 15% in France to 1% in Spain.
  • In 2011/12 the division of vegetable oils between food and industrial use in Europe was 53 and 47%, respectively. For individual oils industrial use was: rapeseed oil (75%), soybean oil (44%), palm oil (43%), and sunflower oil (6%) showing clearly the impact of biodiesel production.


Figures for production and trade during the four years 2008/09 to 2011/12 in oilseeds and vegetable oils in the US are summarised in Table 1. In recent years there has been a marked fluctuation in US production of soybeans. There has also been a significant increase in the export of soybeans and a smaller increase in soybean oil export. These are the consequence of increasing imports to China.

US production, consumption, and trade of oilseeds and vegetable oils are dominated by soybeans. This is apparent in the figures in Table 1. The USA is the largest producer, exporter, and crusher of soybeans and second only to China in the consumption of soybean oil. Other vegetable oils consumed in the US are rapeseed oil (imported mainly from Canada), corn oil and cottonseed oil both produced domestically, and tropical oils (palm, palmkernel, and coconut) imported from South East Asia. In addition, the USA is a significant producer, exporter, and consumer of tallow.

After making allowance, particularly for much of the tallow and some of the lauric oils for nonfood uses, soybean oil is the major oil consumed as human food in the US. Because of the presence of linolenic acid and the high level of linoleic acid, soybean oil may require brush (light) hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation before food use. There is now concern that this process produces undesirable trans acids. These have now to be declared on food labels in the USA and most manufacturers have modified their recipes so that the level of trans acids is so low that trans-free status can be claimed. There has also been increased interest in low-linolenic varieties of soybean oil, which can be used as frying oils and salad oils without brush hydrogenation. Partial hydrogenation to produce the required characteristics for spreads is being replaced by interesterification of blends of soybean oil and more saturated oils.

Other useful information about soybean and other oils in the USA can be found in the web site Soystats 2011.

Table 1. Oilseeds and vegetable oils (million tonnes) in USA during the four years 2008/09 to 2011/12.
Figures from USDA Report of February 2013
  08/09 09/10 10/11 11/12
    Production 89.20 98.90 100.38 92.35
      Soybeans 80.75 91.42 90.60 84.19
    Exports 35.69 41.69 41.83 37.69
      Soybeans 34.82 40.80 40.85 37.06
    Crush 49.34 51.49 49.34 50.36
  Vegetable oils
    Production 9.67 10.07 9.79 10.06
      Soybean oil 8.50 8.90 8.57 8.95
    Exports 1.46 1.95 1.86 1.15
    Imports 3.23 3.34 3.61 3.83
    Consumption 11.17 11.20 11.92 12.81
      Soybean oil 7.37 7.17 7.62 8.31

Argentina and Brazil

Soybeans provide an important source of oil - second only to palm oil – and of valuable protein meal used particularly for animal feed. The major producing countries for soybeans are in North (USA) and South America (mainly Argentina and Brazil). Production in South America has increased substantially in the last 10-15 years and production in Argentina and Brazil combined has exceeded that in USA since 2002/03. Differences between these two countries in respect of vegetable oil consumption and trade are related to the fact that they have very different populations of 40 million in Argentina and 194 million in Brazil. Brazil exports a lot of soybeans while Argentina exports fewer beans but more soybean oil. Both countries produce biodiesel (see section on biodiesel).

In addition to the dominant soybeans, Argentina is also a significant producer and exporter of sunflower seed oil and Brazil produces some cottonseed oil. Both countries have large animal populations and therefore produce and consume tallow.

Table 1. Oilseeds and vegetable oils (million tonnes) in USA during the four years 2008/09 to 2011/12.
Figures from USDA Report of February 2013
  08/09 09/10 10/11 11/12
    Production 89.20 98.90 100.38 92.35
      Soybeans 80.75 91.42 90.60 84.19
    Exports 35.69 41.69 41.83 37.69
      Soybeans 34.82 40.80 40.85 37.06
    Crush 49.34 51.49 49.34 50.36
  Vegetable oils
    Production 9.67 10.07 9.79 10.06
      Soybean oil 8.50 8.90 8.57 8.95
    Exports 1.46 1.95 1.86 1.15
    Imports 3.23 3.34 3.61 3.83
    Consumption 11.17 11.20 11.92 12.81
      Soybean oil 7.37 7.17 7.62 8.31

Malaysia and Indonesia

As the major producers of palm oil (and also producers of palmkernel oil and coconut oil), Malaysia and Indonesia are important areas of world production and trade in vegetable oils. In 2011/12 these two countries together were responsible for 32% of world production of vegetable oils, 87% of world production of palm oil, 60% of world export of vegetable oils, and 89% of world export of palm oil. Indonesia is now the major producer but Malaysia remains a major producer and exporter.

Local consumption in these two countries is influenced in Indonesia by the much higher population and in Malaysia by a large indigenous oleochemical industry based on local supplies of palm oil and palmkernel oil.

Exports of palm oil go to virtually every country. With total palm oil imports of 38.1 million tonnes, the major importing countries/regions in 2011/12 were India (7.5 million tonnes), China (5.8), EU (5.2), Pakistan (2.1), and USA (1.0). Others exceeding 0.5 million tonnes were Egypt, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Iran. Palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia is clearly a very important commodity for the developing world.

In South East Asia (Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) in 2011/12, consumption of palm oil (12.95 million tonnes) was divided between food use (7.14 mt, 55.2%), industrial use (5.54 mt, 42.8%), and other uses (0.27 mt, 2.1%).

Table 1. Production, exports, and domestic consumption (million tonnes) of palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia in 2011/12 (USDA report of Feb. 2013)
  Malaysia Indonesia World total
  Population (million) 30 238 7072
    Vegetable oils 20.38 29.89 155.71
    Palm oil 18.20 25.90 50.70
    Vegetable oils 17.61 20.53 63.47
    Palm oil 16.60 18.25 38.96
  Domestic consumption
    Vegetable oils 4.76 8.92 150.03
    Palm oil 3.42 6.67 47.11


In 2011/12 59.1 million tonnes of oilseeds (mainly groundnut or peanut, soybean, and rapeseed) were grown in China. Much of this was crushed locally to produce vegetable oils mainly for human consumption and seed meals used predominantly for animal feed. However, seed supplies were insufficient for local needs and for indigenous seed crushing capacity so an additional 62.3* million tonnes were imported, which was almost entirely soybeans [59.2 million tonnes]. Total crushing of 96.3* million tonnes of oilseeds yielded 21.0 million tonnes of oil. A further 9.2* million tonnes of oil was imported (mainly palm oil [5.8 million tonnes] and soybean oil [1.5 million tonnes]). Chinese consumption for all purposes was 29.2* million tonnes and was mainly soybean, (11.9 mt) rapeseed (6.2 mt), palm (5.8 mt), and groundnut (2.6 mt). In addition to these vegetable oils there was a sizable production of lard and tallow. The four figures marked with an asterisk place China highest in each category (seeds imported, seeds crushed, vegetable oils imported, and vegetable oils consumed) and thereby emphasise the dominance in China in vegetable oil trade and consumption.


India produces a wide range of oilseeds (soya, cotton, groundnut, sunflower, rape, sesame, copra, castor, and linseed). The total crop (excluding sesame, linseed, and castor) in 2011/12 was 35.7 million tonnes. Indigenous production of between 6 and 7 million tonnes of oil was augmented by 10.0 million tonnes of imported oil. Total consumption was 16.9 million tonnes of which 16.2 million tonnes was used for food purposes.

For soybean oil 1.71 million tonnes was produced locally, 1.17 million tonnes was imported, and 2.75 million tonnes was consumed. For palm oil 7.47 million tonnes was imported making India the largest importer of palm oil in 2011/12 and 7.42 million tonnes was consumed. Production and consumption of rapeseed oil (2.31 and 2.42 million tonnes), groundnut oil (1.16 and 1.16 million tonnes) and cottonseed oil (1.21 and 1.21 million tonnes) were as indicated.

Other countries in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka) are also large importers and consumers of palm oil. Pakistan and Bangladesh imported 2.1 and 1.0 million tonnes of palm oil, respectively, in 2010/11.

In general, Indian oilseed yields are much below those recorded elsewhere. This is a consequence of difficult climatic conditions, particularly in respect of the annual monsoon rains, which are sometimes too little and sometimes too much for optimum yields. Another factor is the poverty of many Indian farmers, who have to economise on irrigation facilities, fertiliser, pesticides, and seed quality.

Consumption of vegetable oils for both food and industrial purposes in India was 14.0 kg/person/year in 2011/12. This figure is well below the world average (21.2 kg/person/year). However, the actual figure for food consumption will be higher by virtue of the consumption of oils such as rice bran and other oils not included in the USDA listing of vegetable oils