More than 200 scientific publications and Internet sources dealing with trade in palm products in north-western South America are reviewed. We focus on value chains, trade volumes, prices, and recent developments for some of the most important raw materials derived from native palms. Trade in palm products takes place at local, regional, national, and international levels. For local communities and individual households palm products may play a key role as the most important or only source of cash income. Most of these palm products are inadequately or not at all captured in trade statistics at the local and regional economic levels. Only products such as vegetable ivory and palm heart are monitored statistically, mainly because they are exported. Most raw materials derived from palms are extracted from the wild, and mainly by destructive harvesting. Reduced availability and rising prices on local and regional markets reflect incipient resource depletion. Only in vegetable ivory more or less sustainable wild harvesting methods prevail. Palm heart is increasingly being harvested from orchards and non-sustainable exploitation of wild populations is loosing ground. The international market for native palm oils and pulp (esp. Euterpe oleracea or açaí) is currently served almost exclusively from Brazil. Due to low oil contents and high production costs palm oils are currently used mainly for cosmetics. Based on their content of protein, starch, tocols, and carotenoids palm fruits have high nutritional value and represent a considerable potential for the development of functional foods, food supplements and animal fodder. Palms could undoubtedly play a more important role in the socio-economic development of north-western South America. Sustainability and marketing potential of palm products are negatively affected by the low income obtained by primary producers which often represents no more than 0.01-3% of the retail value. Poor governance, insecurity of land tenure and unequal sharing of profits endanger a sustainable long-term development of these valuable resources.