Role of oil
palm in economy
By Dr S.M. Alam
OIL palm (Elaeis guineensis) is an important plant for
obtaining edible oil and other materials. The crop grows in
tropical areas as it needs sunshine and rainfall. Suitable
conditions for its cultivation are 10-15 degrees, north and
south of the Equator. The tree grows up to 50 feet in high
rainfall areas. It produces large primate leaves. Quality
seeds are suitable for good produce. It is a native plant of
coastal belt of West Africa and requires spacing of 25 feet.
It is being cultivated in many parts but Malaysia is the main
exporter of palm oil to the world.
of oil palm in Pakistan can not only beautify the coastal
areas but will also minimize environmental pollution along
with reducing considerably the edible oil import bill. There
exist good prospects for its cultivation in the coastal belt
of Sindh and Balochistan where climatic conditions are
favourable, though there is lack of water and extreme heat
with monsoons least affecting the area. The annual rainfall is
as low as 25mm to 50mm. There are plans to provide incentives
to people living along the coast from Karachi to Gawadar for
oil palm cultivation. The 750km belt lies between 62 oF and 68
oF longitude and 24 oN and 26 oN latitude.
Acidity is the main characteristic of the region. The mean
maximum temperature ranges between 32 oC to 42 oC with high
humidity. The sea breeze in summer moderates the temperatures
near the coast. It has been reported that these areas are
suitable for cultivation of oil palm.
The country spends more than $800 million on edible oil
imports annually. It has been reported that more than 8,000
acres of land in Sindh and nearly the same size along the
coastal areas of Balochistan would be brought under oil palm
cultivation in the near future.
The country imports seedlings for which the Pakistan Oilseed
Development Board (PODB) is actively working towards achieving
the goal. The plant starts to bear fruit within 3-4 years with
an economic lifespan of about 25 years.
Oil palm is the most productive crop with an annual yield of
about five tons of crude palm oil/ha. It is reported that
after soybean, palm oil is the second major oil produced in
Currently, worldwide production is nearly 22 million tons.
Major palm oil producing countries are Malaysia, Indonesia,
Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Colombia. Malaysia has a unique
position as it meets almost 50 per cent of the world palm oil
needs and exports nearly 80 per cent of the total world trade
of palm and palm kernel oils, according to figures estimated
Malaysia has the highest yield per hectare and possesses the
most modern oil palm nurseries infrastructure such as the
mills, refineries, storage tanks along with high safety
channels with a total area of about 3791x103 hectares.
Indonesia is the second highest producing country.
The world palm oil consumption in 2003 was 27.3 million tons
and the projected yield for 2005 is estimated at 30.9 million
tons. The per capita consumption in 2004 for the US was 50kg,
Europe 47kg, Japan 21kg, China 17kg, Bangladesh 6.7kg, India
12kg, Pakistan 11kg, and world average at 18.7kg.
Palm oil substitutes about 22 per cent of global demand for
oils and fats and 49 per cent of oil export.
Palm oil is a vegetable oil and does not contain cholesterol
with saturated cholesterol less than that of the coconut. It
is consumed in cooking, margarines and shortening, and as an
ingredient in fat blends and food products like bakery and
confectionery, ice-creams and chocolates. It should be
classified as both saturated and unsaturated fat. The
saturated fatty acids are made up of 44 per cent palmatic acid
and five per cent stearic acid.
The unsaturated fatty acids consist of 39 per cent oleic acid
10 per cent linoleic acid. A number of studies have reported
that palm oil diets reduce blood cholesterol from seven to 38
per cent. The vitamin E, particularly the tocotrienols present
in it suppresses the synthesis of cholesterol in liver. As a
consequence tocotrienols lowers the cholesterol.
Tocotrienols exhibit anti-cancer properties. The oil prevents
formation of thrombus in blood vessels. Vitamin E inhibits
platlets from sticking to each other. It showed that a palm
oil diet either increases production of a hormone that
prevents blood-clotting or decreases the formation of a
Crude palm oil is one of the richest natural sources of
carotenoids with concentration of 500-700ppm. The beneficial
effects of carotenes on cancer and other chronic diseases have
been demonstrated in studies and clinical trials. No other
vegetable oil contains carotenoids in such quantities. This
oil lowers blood cholesterol and bad LDL cholesterol and
increases the good HDL-cholesterol and Apo A-1 levels. It is
stable and versatile even without hydrogenation.
Palm oil is also used in soaps, candles, detergents,
lubricants, fuel, caked residue, cosmetics, and other
personal-care products. It is a rich source of vitamin E and B
– carotene. Pakistan is one of the biggest consumers of palm
oil besides China, India, Japan, Europe and the Middle East
Since the evolution of edible oil industry, palm oil has
played the role of lifeblood for this sector. Despite Pakistan
being an agricultural country, we face chronic shortage of it.
The climate, eating habits, logistics, economy and others make
palm oil the most preferential choice for Pakistan industry.
Every good quality Banaspati contains palm oil. Besides being
largely used for edible purposes, its by-products are used for
soap making. The major oilseeds produced are cottonseed,
rapeseed and sunflower. Linseed, groundnut and sesame are
For the promotion of oil palm cultivation the following points
should be taken into consideration: Research station should be
established at Karachi; Oil palm seedlings should be provided
free of cost; Arrangement should be made for raising of
seedlings; Marketing channels for growers should be set up so
that when farmers start planting oil palm along the coastal
areas of Sindh and Balochistan they should not face crop
disposal problem; Irrigation facility through sweet water
should be provided; Training of required manpower involved in
nurseries and plantation may be arranged from any oil palm
producing country; Mills for the extraction should be planned.
Courtesy: The DAWN