palm oil plantation

Good and bad palm oil. Food security, paradigm shift and stakeholder negotiations in Indonesia and the EU (2023-2027)

Picture: Kelly Pexels

This multidisciplinary project takes a broader approach going beyond existing standalone case studies to examine palm oil negotiations and policies from the perspective of small producers in Indonesia, and policymakers and NGOs in the EU and Indonesia.

What kinds of views do different stakeholders have on palm oil, and how are the views negotiated and narrated? How do the arguments and narratives reflect the stakeholders' values, the "good and bad" and the ethics of palm oil cultivation and use? Who influences whom and what power relations can we discern in the multi-level palm oil negotiations and debates? How can disputes be resolved to ensure food security and find a solution in line with the 2030 Agenda?

The project is funded by KONE Foundation for the period of 2023 to 2027.





Palm oil is a commodity used in the production of food ingredients, non-food consumer products, and biofuels. Most of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia where oil palm cultivation provides a livelihood for over 16 million smallholders and workers. At the same time, oil palm monoculture farming leads to forest and biodiversity loss, enhances climate change and violates indigenous land and human rights. This has been strongly criticized by the European Parliament which banned palm oil imports in 2018, and as a response, Indonesia filed a lawsuit against the EU at the WTO. However, the recent attack war by Russia on Ukraine has resulted in a global food crisis and a paradigm change, where, instead of the EU-Indonesia dispute, attention has turned to global food security. The problem is multifaceted.

This project primarily aims to:

(1) Contextualize the paradigm shift in the palm oil narrative

(2) Understand its effects on the power relations and negotiations among palm oil stakeholders

(3) Analyze the effects on primary producers in Indonesia and more broadly on global food security.

We study documentary, interview, survey and social media data and combine the theories and methods of political science, development economics, regional studies, and political economy (rhetorical analysis, social network analysis, and content analysis).

We disseminate the results in academic and wider audience publications and presentations in three languages (English, Finnish, and Indonesian).

Project summary in KONE foundation website (in Finnish).


Principal investigator

Erja Kettunen-Matilainen

Senior Research Fellow, Economic Geography

Docent, Department of Marketing and International Business, University of Turku



Ayu Pratiwi

Postdoctoral Researcher, Lecturer, Economic Geography

Department of Marketing and International Business, University of Turku

Ratih Adiputri

Postdoctoral Researcher, Lecturer

Department of History and Ethnology, University of Jyväskylä


News & Events



28 July – 1 August: A session panel will be held at the 13th International Convention of Asian Scholars Crossways of Knowledge in Surabaya, under Theme 1: Uneven Geographies, Ecologies, Technologies and Human Futures, entitled Seeds of change: Revitalizing Asian region food security through multi-stakeholder bargaining and initiatives. 


1 - 3 November: A paper by Kettunen and Pratiwi (2023), “Good and bad palm oil: The EU-Indonesia bargaining on palm oil policy" is accepted for presentation at the 27th International Euro-Asia Research Conference Evolving Euro-Asia Business Management: Changing Political and Economic Perspectives, to be held in Casa Asia, Barcelona, Spain.

23 - 26 May: Sustainability Science Days 2023 -PATHWAYS OF HOPE – knowledge, actions, solutions

The conference is organised jointly by the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) and Aalto University. We convene a session entitled "Unpacking the scientific knowledge networks for sustainability transformation in Agri-Food system" together with Ruralia Insitute, University of Helsinki.

12 May: The PI (Erja Kettunen-Matilainen) will give a keynote lecture at the Palmen Colloquium of the Geographical Society of Finland, entitled "Economic geography perspectives on internationalization, trade, and trade policy negotiations: Asia, palm oil and multi-stakeholder bargaining".

3 - 21 April: The PI (Erja Kettunen-Matilainen) will be a visiting scholar at NIAS - Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen to work on a topic related to Indonesia-EU palm oil negotiations. The project is presented in NIAS Update; Just in time for Easter (



Kettunen-Matilainen, Erja (2023)

The multifaceted question of palm oil -Contribution to UTU Global South Networks Blog


Relevant prior publications:

(1) Pratiwi, Ayu, Matous Petr, Martinus Kirsten (2022)

Transmigration programs and migrant positions in rural community knowledge networks

Journal of Rural Studies

(2) Pratiwi, Ayu, Farikhah, Adiputra Yudha, Lee Guenwoo, Adiputri Ratih (2022)

Strengthening Sustainable Small-Scale Aquaculture and Fisheries Through Proper Infrastructure and Policy - Global Solutions Initiative | Global Solutions Summit (

Policy brief to T20 Indonesia G20 presidency. The Think20 (T20).

(3) Adiputri, Ratih (2021)

The Role of Parliament in Sustainable Development Goals: A Case Study of Southeast Asia in International Parliamentary Forums

The Indonesian Journal of Development Planning

(4) Pratiwi, Ayu, Suzuki Aya (2020)

Does training location matter? Evidence from a randomized field experiment in Rural Indonesia 

Agricultural and Food Economics

(5) Kettunen, Erja (ed.) (2019)

Kaakkois-Aasia: Talous, ympäristö ja yhteiskunta [Southeast Asia: economy, environment and society; in Finnish]

Kaakkois-Aasia | Gaudeamus, Helsinki. ISBN 9789523450073.