Red Palm Oil

Red Palm Oil

Palm oil (Elaeis guineensis) is a traditional fat that has been in existence and used primarily in human diet since the 14th century. They can be grown only in tropical areas of Africa, South American and Asia. In recent years, demand for edible vegetable oils has increased considerably and world’s production of red palm oil has equally taking the same route to meet the global demand. For generations now, the palm oil has been revered for its nutritious benefit and medicinal value.  As at 2008, global production of palm oil stood at 48 million tons. Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of red palm oil with about 21 million tons produced in 2008. Second to Indonesia is Malaysia with about 17.7 million tons. The two countries accounted for about 85% of global palm oil production (FAO data, 2008). Other producers of palm oil include Thailand, Nigeria, Colombia, Benin and Ghana.  Leading importers of red palm oil are China, India, Pakistan and USA.




Red Palm Oil


As a tropical plant, the oil plant grows in areas where there is abundant rainfall throughout the year. It requires adequate irrigation as a fast growing plant with high biomass production and productivity. The plant produces higher yield in South East Asia than in West Africa because of favorable weather conditions (rainfall distribution and solar radiation) on palm growth. However, yields have increased considerably over the past 3 decades as a result of improved field management techniques and the introduction of modern planting implements.

There are many varieties of the oil palm, but the most widely known varieties are; the Dura, Picifera and the Tenera variery. The Dura  is commonly found in the West African Region. It produces a thick shell and has a thin mesocarp.  The shell and mesocarp are areas that produce palm oil whereas the kernel (inner nut) produces palm kernel oil. In the West African region, the fruit is usually steamed to soften the pulp and then pounded to separate the flesh from the kernel. The unique flavoring of the Dura is the reason why it is a mainstay in many African dishes.


Palm fruits (Used in making Palm oil)


The Pisifera variety (Elaeis oleifera) is found in tropical regions of south and Central America. Unlike the Dura variety, the fruit of pisifera has no shell and are also smaller. Because of its size, yields are generally lower compared to the Dura variety. The Tenera variety originated from Malaysia and Indonesia. It is hybrid specie cultivated from the male pisifera pollen and female Dura flowers. As a preferred variety for commercial oil palm production, Tenera fruits yield higher oil than either of the other varieties. It has a thin husk fruit with an oil rich mesocarp and small kernel that separates easily from the flesh. The Tenera tree produces more bunches of fruits than any other variety. This explains why virtually all oil palm plantations growing in Indonesia and Malasia are the Tenera hybrids.

Red palm oil is known to serve both dietary and medicinal purposes. It contains several fats (saturated and unsaturated) in the forms of palmitate, linoleate, oleate, stearate, and glyceryl laurate. Palm oil can be used as biodiesel. It is also used in industries for the production of soaps and creams. Red palm oil is not just important in the supply of fatty acids essential for growth and development, but is equally filled with an assortment of phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants vital for good health.

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