Sugar palm

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Sugar Palm
Average yield: 21,600 tonnes of sugar (sucrose)/year/hectare
biofuel yield: {{{biofuel yield}}}
Content  ???
Water requirements:  ???
Soil preference: sandy soils with a little acid pH (5.5)
Harvesting:  ???
Harvesting season:  ???
Advantages: high yield
Disadvantages:  ???
Other issues:  ???

Sugar palm is a common name for several species of palms used to produce sugar. Species so used and named include [1]:

  • Arenga pinnata (syn. A. saccharifera)
  • Borassus
  • Caryota urens
  • Cocos nucifera



Although the origin of A. pinnata is not known with certainty, it may be from the region of Minahassa in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, in view of the great abundance of this palm at all sites. Its great versatility makes it one of the oldest cultivated plants, and it was probably a source of plant sugar long before sugarcane was cultivated for that purpose. [2]


Greenhouse gases (CO2)

The sugar palm as an annual crop has a high CO2 sequestration efficiency. The bole is solitary, unbranched and usually reaches a height of 15-20 m, with a diameter of about 30-40 cm. Leaves pinnate, ascending, up to 8.5 m long. The average life span of sugar palm trees is 30 years when usually they are cut down for the extraction of sago, the starchy layer on the inner part of the trunk. [3]

Sugar palm does not require pesticides as it is rarely attacked by pests or diseases. [4], [5]

Sugar palm does not require a lot of fertilization, usually with composted chicken manure. The over-fetilization of sugar palm may blight the tree.[6]


Sugar palm’s heavy shade and the dense root system allow very few plants thrive under it such as coffee and pineapple with hardly yield though. However, the short life span of the tree fits well into the rotation practices of country where it is cultivated such as Indonesia.[7] Sugar palm provides food for the local fauna as their fruits can are eaten by wild pigs, bats and palm civet, Viverra tangalunga (musang) and Paradoxorus philippinensis (alamid). From their side, these mammals aid in the propagation of Sugar palm by excreting the seeds. [8]


Land degradation

As the sugar palm tree has a deep root system (up to 15 m), it can be used also to control erosion.

Social sustainability

In Cambodia, sugar palm production has been one of the main sources of income for rural families. Each family owns from 10 to 30 meaning 1 to 3 tonnes of sugar palm syrup (approximately 80% DM) per year. The price of the syrup depend of the season and varies from 400 - 600 Riels [in 1998; 0.08 – 0.12 Euros in current exchange rate] during the dry season to 1,000 - 1,200 Riels [In 1998; 0.20-0.24 Euros with current exchange rate] during the rainy one. However, the sugar production is mainly a source of income for the people who have access to free firewood; otherwise they are losing an average of 20 Riels/tree/day. Hence, the rest prefer to use it as an alternative to cereal grains for feeding their livestock. Substitutionally, the leaves, leaf branches and trunk of sugar palm are used as good construction materials for house. [9]

Species conservation



  • Arenga pinnata is a solitary, unarmed, pleonanthic, monoecious feather palm.
  • Native to Southeast Asia, occurring in tropical rainforest and dry forest. Usually it grows close to human settlements where anthropic propagation plays a major role. Otherwise it prefers secondary forest at the border of primary rainforests.[10]
  • Ideally, sugar palm grows on sandy soils with a little acid pH (5.5).
  • The palm tree commences to produce inflorescences (maturity) in 15-20 years depending on soil fertility.
  • Sugar palm trees can, theoretically, produce juice for more than 70 years.
  • Male trees are producing juice for 3 months per year and female trees for 5-6 months.
  • The average yield is 5 kg of juice/day/tree with an average sugar content of 13.5%. However, there are high production trees that produce 20-25 kg of juice/day.
  • The sugar palm trees are capable of producing 160,000 tonnes of juice or 21,600 tonnes of sugar (sucrose)/year/hectare.
  • Farmers believe harvesting the leaves has a great influence on the yield of juice.
  • In January the production the sucrose content in the juice is ranged from 66-94% of total solids and in April this is reduced to 51-88%. In contrary, the levels of glucose and fructose are increased from 2.1-9.6% to 3.5-18.2% and from 2.6-11% to 4.6-24.5%, respectively.
  • During the sugar palm production 460 kg per tree per year of firewood are consumed.[11]



It is comparatively more profitable to use rice husk than firewood for sugar production. However, the husk yield just 240 kg/hectare and is sufficient to condense just the 4.5% of the juice of 20 trees. Moreover, it requires one to two persons to be permanently assigned to take care of boiling juice.

It is comparatively more profitable to use palm juice for pig feeding than for sugar production. The former use can return a net profit of 140 Riels/tree/day compared to the latter that returns only 10 Riels.

Female sugar palm trees are not exploited for juice and can provide 12,000-14,000 Riels annually (80 fruits per year from 8-15 bunches of fruits, 3,000 to 3,500 Riels per 40 kernels extracted from 15-20 fruits).[12]



See books, reports, scientific papers, position papers and websites for additional useful resources.


Other sugar palm products

The sugar palm tree is considered a multipurpose tree. Apart from the production of bioethanol, the sugar palm tree could provide food for humans and feed for animals, could also help to the apiculture, be used as fuel, produce fiber and timber and supply a kind of poison and medicine. [14]


The most important product of sugar palm is the sweet sap. From each tree, 10-12 liters of sap can be collected per day. However, this number depends on the climate conditions, age of the tree and length of time the sap has been flowing out. If this sap is boiled, a brown sugar can be produced. [15] Except of being a feedstock for the production of bioethanol or sugar production, the sap is used as a drink. With a distillation process of the fermented sugar sap, a beverage containing over 30% alcohol can be produced. [16]


In Indonesia, trees more than 15 years old can produce starch [17] However as the starch require the cutting down of the plant, it is usually the last product obtained from sugar cane trees of 20 to 25 years old. Each tree can produce 50 to 75 kg of starch but there are cases where 100 kg have been obtained per tree. The starch can be used as a substitute of the rice.[18] or to be converted to flour that is used as an ingredient in the preparation of cakes, noodles, and other dishes.[19],[20]


In West Java, the cooked endosperm of young sugar palm fruits is used for the production of a local cocktail. One infructescence yields about 4 500 endosperms. Palm cabbage [21] And the buds is eaten raw as a salad or cooked. [22]


The nectar from sugar palm’s flowers serve as a source for the production of honey. [23]

Leaf and leaves

Old woody leaf bases and the long leaves, can be used for fuel. The leaf sheath is used for the production of a durable rope tolerant of both fresh and salt water and of fire. The split petioles are used for basketry and a form of marquetry. The youngest leaves are used as cigarette paper.[24] Otherwise, the leaves are used as a nest for bats that with 0.5 to 1kg of manure per day provide a good source of fertilizer for flower gardens. [25]


The hairs from the base of the leaf sheaths are used for igniting fire.[26]


The very hard outer part of the trunk is used for barrels, flooring and furniture. Also the wood of sugar palm is used for the manufacturing of posts for pepper vines, boards, tool handles and musical instruments like drums.[27]


The roots of A. pinnata are a useful insect repellent. Also, they provide medicinal products such as a tea decoction used to cure bladder trouble.[28] Also, tuba has curative properties for tuberculosis and petioles have diuretic and antihemophilic properties. In Cambodia, the root is considered to be stomachic and pectoral palliatives.[29]

Other uses

To use as the green fence around the household, as well as on the bunds of rice fields.[30]


Growing Kaong (Sugar Palm); Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Philippines;

AgroForestryTree Database: A tree species reference and selection guide – Arenga pinnata; World Agroforestry Center;

Khieu Borin; “The Sugar Palm Tree as the Basis of Integrated Farming Systems in Cambodia”; Second FAO Electronic Conference on Tropical Feeds - Livestock Feed Resources within Integrated Farming Systems;

Bioenergy feedstocks edit

Biodiesel feedstocks:
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