*By Shola Adebowale
Few years back, Malaysia got its tenera oil palms from Nigeria. Today Malaysia is the world's biggest palm oil-producing country, accounting for about half of the world production. This was as a result of Malaysia’s research and development (R&D) program in oil palm breeding, by its Department of Agriculture’s exchange program with Nigeria in the 1960s.
Herein, is a nation that can see into the future. Less a decade after, by the 1970s, Malaysia had established a special university, known as the Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM), to train agricultural and agro-industrial engineers and agro-business graduates to conduct further research and training in oil palm production. The major driving force, behind the government’s oil palm dream, is the use of oil palm production as major tool to create employment and invariably reduce poverty.
By 1995, Malaysia had become the world's largest producer with 51% of world production. For instance, Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) is the world's biggest oil palm planter with planted area close to 900,000 hectares in Malaysia and Indonesia. Felda, was formed specifically with the main aim of eradicating poverty.
Research has shown that oil palm is the most productive oil seed in the world. And that a single hectare of oil palm can yield 5,000 kilograms of crude oil, or nearly 6,000 liters of crude, making the crop remarkably profitable when grown in large plantations .One particular study that looked at 10,000 hectare-plantations suggests an internal rate of return of 26 percent annually.
As is well known, palm fruit takes five to six months to mature from pollination to maturity. The palm fruit is reddish, about the size of a large plum and grows in large bunches. Each fruit is made up of an oily, fleshy outer layer (the pericarp), with a single seed (the palm kernel), also rich in oil. When ripe, each bunch of fruit weighs 40-50 kilogrammes.
The high oil yield of oil palm trees (as high as 7,250 liters/hectare/ year) has made it a common cooking ingredient in Asia, Africa, and America. While it’s increasing use in the commercial food industry in many parts of the world is buoyed by its cheaper pricing, high oxidative stability of its refined product and its high levels of natural antioxidants.
By virtue of its high yield, palm oil is a cheaper substitute than other vegetable oils and gradually providing a viable alternative to petroleum or any other fossil fuel. As we all know, Oil Palm product, according to experts, has been the world’s dietary staple for more than 5,000 years of man’s existence on mother earth.
And specifically it is indigenous to West Africa, from where it picked its scientific name-Elaeis Guineensis (Guineensis from Guinea, a West African nation). Scientifically, it has been discovered that, oil palm is the only fruit in the world that can give two types of oil. For instance, one can obtain oil from the flesh of the fruit and from the kernel as well. In other words, oil is extracted from both the pulp of the fruit (palm oil, edible oil) and the kernel (palm kernel oil, used in foods and for soap manufacture). For every 100 kilograms of fruit bunches, typically 22 kilograms of palm oil and 1.6 kilograms of palm kernel oil can be extracted. Its production costs are low and productivity very high. All over the world, it has been regarded as the highest-yielding source of edible oil in the world.
Moreover, it has been discovered that, Palm oil is a staple with a number of nutritional benefits and thus included in many products as a component of many processed foods, like biscuits, chocolates, cookies, sweets, cream for coffees or peanut butter, condensed milk, powdered milk, cereals, dry cake mix ,cakes and sponge cakes, sauces, fat substitutes, crackers and microwave popcorn. And because of its stability at high temperatures, it has been found to be the most ideal for frying French fries, potato chips, pastries, doughnuts, fish/seafood and other deep-fat-fried foods. It is also found in shaving gels, acne treatments, lip balm, cosmetics and as oil as an alternative to oils that are high in trans fats.
Furthermore, palm oil is highly advantageous in the manufacturing of cosmetics, soaps and chemicals, face and body lotion, shaving gels, shampoo, conditioner and hair spray, washing powder/detergents ,toothpaste, waxes, lubricants, and ink. It is also use in the manufacturing of many other products, like paper pulp, dyes, lamp shades, particleboard, polishes, textile finishes, hammocks, cigarette papers and upholstery stuffing.
Industrial wise, palm oil has been found to be used in the production of candles, lubricating greases for machinery used in the production of edible foods, grease for bread molds and bread making equipment, grease used to protect tanks, pipelines and similar instruments which remain uncovered and in the open air, drilling mud for the petroleum industry, plastification and sterilization of products in the plastics industry(in particular during the production of PVC).While it is ,also be used in the production of glue, printing inks, steel cold rolling processes, tinplate rolling, and acids to lubricate fibers in the textile industry. In other words, petroleum, plastics, printing and textile industries all commonly make use of palm oil.
In addition to the above, oils extracted from the oil palm fruit and other parts of the tree are highly essential raw materials in many industries. While, the leaf, fibers and empty fruit bunches are used to produce chipboard and plywood. So much the more, palm fronds and kernel meal, a byproduct of palm oil can be processed, and used in the production of concentrated foods and as a supplement in animal food or as a feedstock. Even after oil palm plantations are cleared out due to old age or other factors, the trunks of old palms can be used to make furniture.
Medical wise, it has been discovered and proven beyond reasonable doubts that, oil palm can be used for preventing vitamin A deficiency. And as well used in the treatments of acne, malaria, high blood pressure, wounds and cyanide poisoning .And as a balm, it can as well be used for instance in preventing or treating cracking of the lips.
As early as the beginning of the 20th century, it has been discovered that palm oil from oil palm, can be used as biofuel. Most especially, when Rudolf Diesel was noted to have used vegetable oil as fuel for his car, from which the motor engine subsequently took its name. Years later, palm oil was successfully developed as a biofuel for cars. Presently, palm oil is used in the production of some types of biodiesel. As is well known, biodiesel is a veritable alternative to fossil-based fuels. And, it is produced from vegetable oils, and used as a fuel for vehicles, at a very adoring competitive cost in terms of cost of production.
Palm oil can as well be burned in order to produce electricity at power plants, like the Sabah palm oil, power plant in Malaysia, which generates about 20MW of electricity and Bugala oil palm, power station in Uganda which generates about 1.5 MW. Besides, palm oil is being developed and used to make a sustainable, environmentally friendly fuel for automobiles and machines as noted hitherto. When grown sustainably, palm oil offers an environmentally sound alternative to diesel fuel. Palm oil's high ignition and oxidation levels has been known to create a smooth-running and efficient engine and is more environmentally friendly (for emphasis)and more advantageous than other combustible fuels such as petro diesel and standard petrol
And, for these reasons, it is becoming more popular.
One of the greatest undoing of most 21st century nations today, is high rate of unemployment; there is therefore no doubt, that one of the answers is oil palm production. Oil palm production can generate a lot of employment, as it is contributing to the world’s high demand for renewable energy sources. Its capacity to generate qualitative employment has to do most especially, to the high demand for palm oil which has increased in recent years due to its use as a biofuel. For the benefit of hindsight, in any oil palm plantation, like most extensive plantations anywhere in the world, there is virtually no identified or known profession in this world, that cannot be found or employed and in their large numbers in-house in an oil palm plantation.
With such benefits in mind, in terms of derivations/multi usage, cost of production, end result, absorption of once idle or under-utilized man power and other comparative advantages, it is not surprising therefore to note that, Colombia has pledged to produce biodiesel using palm oil mixed with diesel. This will eventually play an important role in providing energy fuels which can power thousands of cars and machines with motor engines across Colombia. It has even be discovered that using palm oil as a biodiesel brings a lot of benefits and itis environmentally friendly (for emphasis, again), unlike other sources of energy, most especially fossil fuel.
And as stated at the beginning, Malaysia has quickly tapped into the great benefit that could be derived from oil palm production when it matter most to its national developmental goals and drive. ‘Such a wise nation is hard to come by’, a generation would say, one day. Today, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing at an average 6.5% for almost 50 years, nonstop.
While, the nation is presently, diversifying from agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. Presently, manufacturing has a large influence in Malaysia economy. In an effort to diversify the economy and make Malaysia’s economy less dependent on exported goods, the government has pushed vigorously to increase tourism in Malaysia. As a result, tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of income from foreign exchange.
Quite interesting to note, that the Malaysian government is aggressively refocusing its palm oil industry towards biodiesel to meet growing demand from European countries by encouraging the building of several biodiesel plants. While, simultaneously, pushing through legislation to enforce a mandatory switch from diesel to biofuels. And hence incredibly, from 2007 till date, all diesel sold in Malaysia is made up of 5pc of palm oil!
Today, it is quite interesting to note that the world's palm oil production is concentrated mainly in Borneo Island of Malaysia, Indonesia, while Thailand and Columbia are seriously tagging along. And quite amusing and amassing to note that Africa, most especially the western coast from where oil palm is traditionally found insitu, in its primordial aboriginal state of nature, is nowhere to be found in the reckoning of such high end natural endowment and great source of wealth.
As could easily be seen and deduced from above, any nation, under the shackles of poverty and crushing debt burdens due to low capacity of industrialization and judicious engagement of its citizenry in productive capability, oil palm related industries offers a very viable vehicle of transformation. And I think this is a golden opportunity to many of the under developed nations of the world and a wakeup call, as well: to tap from the knowledge of those that have trod on this path of ‘grass to glory’ through oil palm production. And let the world hope and pray that someone would listen and listen well.
Lastly, as technology develops at the speed of light and the fulcrum of industrialization like fossil fuel (petroleum) is fast becoming more and more synonymous with conflicts, fluid in nature and controversial in substances, palm oil offers the world a low-carbon alternative and substitute to petroleum-based transport fuels. In other words, no wonder then that palm oil is gaining popularity as a cheap and effective solution to the world's fuel crisis and a viable, cheaper way of reducing the world’s over dependence on fossil fuels.
As far back as the 15th Century Ca'da Mosto, a Portuguese explorer once tasted palm oil in Africa and was said to have written: “It smells of violets, tastes like olives and has a colour that blends foods together like saffron…’,mesmerized by his discovery, sense of taste, sight and reasoning, he had no choice but to concludes that ‘.. But even all this can't sufficiently describe its special qualities”.
To the Asians palm oil is regarded as a ‘gold oil', while among the Yoruba of West Africa, like the testimony of Ca'da Mosto-‘ it is the tree of life ‘.
I call it a miracle tree.
* This piece is dedicated to the memory of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose government moved like in the spirit of the founding fathers of Malaysia, by giving to Africa –the first TV/Radio station in Africa, the first Sky Scrapper in Africa, the first stadium in Africa and generational giants of educated folks in Africa ..All through proceeds from AGRICULTURE.
Mr. Adebowale is a prolific freelance writer, syndicated columnist, researcher, and blogger.
Via - http://dailypost.com.ng/2012/10/15/shola-adebowale-the-miracle-tree-between-nigeria-and-malaysia/#