Palm oil production in Peru has seen rapid growth in the past decade. The Peruvian government projects that deforested land used for palm oil production could grow by a factor of seven. Between 2005 and 2018, Peru lost 2.5 million hectares of primary forest, which has implications on biodiversity and carbon sequestration, and for indigenous groups.

Why it matters

  • $46.9M Value of palm oil exports, 2019.
  • 86,000 Total area of oil palm plantations. In hectares.

Hectares of tree loss

Deforestation by region, 2005 - 2018
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Forest loss in context

Tree cover loss Is typically measured In hectares. One hectare Is equivalent to about 3/4 of a football pitch. In these terms, roughly 18,000 football pitches of tropical forest have been lost between 2005 and 2018. This is equivalent to 25,425 Kilometers, 15,798 miles, or three times the size of New York City.

Aerial view of rain forest in Peru.

Risk factors

The factors behind deforestation in Peru are diverse. Although Peru’s overall deforestation levels are lower than some of its Amazonian neighbors, it has at times seen the highest rate of forest clearing in the region over the past two decades.

Manu National Park, Peru – August 07, 2017: The Amazon rainforest in Manu National Park, Peru


Agricultural expansion is a major driver. Most production takes place on small farms. The production of coffee and cacao is a top deforestation risk, while the cattle and palm oil sectors also contribute. The palm oil sector represents a growing risk as the industry expands and the country looks to export higher volumes of palm oil products.

Mining and logging

Activities such as illegal gold mining and logging are also big contributors to deforestation in Peru. Illegal gold mining negatively impacts biodiversity and the availability of clean drinking water, due to the frequent use of Mercury.

Government action

The government has taken action to address deforestation, but success has been mixed. Peru’s National Strategy on Protected Areas and its forest laws have supported forest management and enhanced protected areas. Yet, it has struggled to curb illegal small-scale gold mining, and the fact that small farmers’ livelihoods depend on agricultural commodity cultivation has made it difficult for the government to balance both economic growth and sustainability.

Fires in Peru, April 2020: Each yellow dot is a fire observed by NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System.

Fire hot spots

The Peruvian Amazon faces an annual uptick in forest fires related to agricultural development during its dry season.

What is the cause?

Palm oil production is associated with clearcutting and setting fire to forested land to remove roots and Palm oil production is associated with clear-cutting and setting fire to forested land to remove roots and forest debris. Between 2007 and 2013, palm oil made up 4 percent of the crops in the Peruvian Amazon but contributed to 11 percent of deforestation. However, if the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers’ Association (JUNPALMA) honors its promise to become deforestation-free by 2021, there may be increased efforts to improve efficiency on existing plantations rather than clearing primary forests.

What is the impact?

Forest fires reduce biodiversity and disrupt tropical ecosystems. One hectare of the Amazon is home to approximately 310 species of trees, 160 species of birds, 10 species of primates, 44 types of fish, 33 species of amphibians, 96 types of moss, 22 species of reptiles, and one billion invertebrates in the soil. The soil and biomass also store an estimated 257 tons of carbon, which are released during forest fires and contribute to climate change.

Where are the fires?

Forest fires in the Peruvian Amazon have been primarily focused around the Uchiza, Curimaná, Ocumal, Barranquita, and Balsa Puerto districts.


Homepage numbers: Tree cover loss (since 2005), Global Forest Watch; Deforestation as a percentage of GHG emissions, 2005-2016, Climate Watch; National goal for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Climate Action Tracker.

Deforestation map: Tree cover loss since 2005 by region, Global Forest Watch; Value of palm oil exports, 2019, International Trade Centre; Total area of oil palm plantations, Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project.


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