Situated on the island of Sumatra, Medan has thrived off the multibillion dollar palm oil trade. But the controversial business comes at a destructive cost

Indonesia’s fourth biggest city is a bona fide oil town – only, the above ground kind. Close to 4 million acres of palm oil plantations on the island of Sumatra, Medan helps feed a controversial $65bn global business that seeps into foodstuffs, cosmetics and biodiesel – an estimated 50% of supermarket products, in fact. The profits seep back into the city, which has more than doubled in size in 20 years to around 2.5 million people – condominiums, hotels and amusement parks greased by this liquid gold. This week sees Medan’s Santika Premiere Dyandra hotel host Palmex, Asia’s only trade event dedicated to the industry.

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