Introduction to Oil Palm
Generally an oil palm plant is grown in a nursery for 12 to 18 months prior to its transfer to the field. After approximately 30 months, it will begin to bear fruit and will have an economic lifespan of approximately 20 to 30 years. A mature tree produces 10 to 15 fresh fruit bunches per annum. Each bunch weighs approximately 10 to 20 kilograms and has between 1,000 and 3,000 fruitlets and each fruitlet has a palm kernel.
After the fresh fruit bunches are transported to the palm oil mill, the fruits are sterilized, stripped off the fresh fruit bunches and crushed to extract CPO. At the end of this milling process, CPO and palm kernels are produced. CPO is then sent to the refineries for further processing while the palm kernels are sent to the crushers for the palm kernel oil to be extracted. The yield of a normal plantation is approximately 4-5 tonnes of palm oil per hectare per annum.
Following thereto, downstream processing is where various palm oil derivatives that can be utilised for food and non-food applications are produced, such as cooking oil, cookies, margarine, chocolate, soaps, detergents, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, amongst others.
It is also the most sustainable of all vegetable oils and trans fat free with up to ten times more oil produced per hectare than any other leading oil making plants. With more research in the last two decades revealing potentially dangerous effect of trans fats on health, most food companies have now removed them from their products and started using palm oil instead.