WASHINGTON, April 1 (Reuters) - The World Bank on Friday lifted an 18-month global moratorium on lending for new palm oil investments, saying it had endorsed a strategy that would focus on supporting small farmers that dominate the sector.
The poverty-fighting institution suspended new investments in the palm oil sector in September 2009 to review its lending practices and to conduct global consultations in the $30 billion industry.
"With the adoption of the new Framework and Strategy, (the World Bank) is now lifting that suspension," it said in a statement.
Palm oil is produced by and employs over 6 million rural poor around the globe. Some 70 percent of palm oil production is used as staple cooking oil by the poor in Asia and Africa.
Although the World Bank is a small player in the palm oil sector, having invested $132 million in projects in Asia, Central America, Ukraine and West Africa, it said its new effort would seek to boost production on degraded plantations and boost productivity.
"This will take place by helping to strengthen smallholder producer organizations, promoting their access to finance and markets, improving their agronomy practices and productivity, and fostering fair contractual arrangements with larger companies," the bank said. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Dale Hudson)