The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a crop that produces palm oil.
It is commercially grown in Southeast Asia and some other parts of the world.
KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF THE OIL PALM :
Tree crop – can grow up to 25 meters in height
Perennial – has a long economic lifespan of up to 25 years
Fruiting all year long – once fruiting, it will continue to produce throughout the year
Efficient – produces two types of oil from a single fruitlet; palm oil from the mesocarp (flesh) and palm kernel oil from the kernel (seed)
Highly productive – yields 5-10 times more oil per hectare than soybean, rapeseed and sunflower
Native to West Africa, the oil palm was introduced to Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia) in 1875 as an ornamental plant.
However, it was only commercialized in 1917 when Henri Fauconnier, a French entrepreneur, planted it for its oil at Tennamaram Estate, Selangor; laying the foundation for the birth of the Malaysian palm oil industry.
In Malaysia, the oil palm has allowed thousands of small farmers
to improve their livelihood and escape the poverty trap.
The Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) started recruitment of landless farmers to plant rubber in its rural land development schemes.
FELDA Taib Andak in Johor became the first FELDA scheme to plant the oil palm.
The oil palm replaced rubber as FELDA’s main crop.
112,635 rural poor of whom 80% were dependent on the oil palm had found employment when FELDA ended its settlers’ recruitment.
The number of oil palm small farmers has increased to 650,000 across Malaysia.
Research has been an important sector of Malaysia’s palm oil industry from the beginning. Started with palm breeding in the 1920s, the sector was expanded to incorporate genetics, crop physiology, processing, palm nutrition, product development, palm biofuels, oil palm biomass and others.
This has led to major achievements in particular :
Tenera palm as the preferred planting material today. Tenera palm is chosen because it can provide up to 30% more vegetable oil compared to Dura palm.
Introduction of various palm oil’s downstream products for use in the food industry.
Complete sequencing of the oil palm’s genome
In recognition of its achievements, Malaysia today is known as the global center on oil palm research.
Palm oil has also been recognized by the WHO & FAO as wholesome, nutritious and suitable for human consumption. It is also touted as a suitable replacement for hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are associated with the harmful trans fat.
Nutritious Palm Oil is :
FREE of cholesterol, trans fat and GMO
readily digested, absorbed and utilized as a source of energy in the body
rich in anti-oxidants Pro-Vitamin A carotenoids and Vitamin E tocotrienols
made up of a balanced composition of unsaturated & saturated fatty acids of about 50% each
Benefits of palm’s Vitamin E Tocotrienols:
Neuroprotective – helps prevent a stroke attack
Cardioprotective- protects against heart diseases
Improves the functions of the immune system
Protects against osteoporosis ( a type of bone disease)
Management of fatty liver
More potent than Vitamin E tocopherols
Palm oil along with palm kernel oil is extensively used to produce oleochemicals.
Oleochemicals are environment-friendly chemicals found in thousands of consumer products such as personal care, cosmetics, soaps, detergents, surfactants, inks & coatings, etc.
Using palm oil and palm kernel oil as main feedstock, Malaysia developed its oleochemical industry in the 1980s by producing basic oleochemicals such as fatty acids, fatty alcohols, methyl esters and glycerin. Over the years, these have expanded to oleo-derivatives and industrial end-products.
Today, Malaysia is a world’s leading producer of oleochemicals with an annual production of up to 2.67 mil tonnes or at least 20% of global production.
Malaysia is the leading producer of sustainable palm oil.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established to formulate the principles & criteria for the production of sustainable palm oil.
Malaysia became the first country in the world to produce and export RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.
The Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme was introduced by the Malaysian Government and serves as an alternative certification scheme for sustainable palm oil.
1.44 million hectares or 25% of Malaysia’s oil palm planted area and 131 palm oil mills had received the MSPO certification.
Permanent forest cover accounts for 55.5% of Malaysia’s total land area. This is well above the 50% threshold that Malaysia had pledged at the Rio Earth Summit.
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