Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oil Palm

In the above post, I had a photograph of oil palm kernel. I said I would do a post on Palm oil. In today's world, palm oil doesn't have a good name. I grew up in Borneo which is now an oil palm producing state. I understand that oil palm growing is a highly controversial environmental issue. I hope I will present a balanced point of view.

My school had a student who did a research to ask to boycott oil palm because clearing the jungle for oil palm plantation robs the orang utan's natural habitat. These results in the killing the orang utans in Borneo and Indonesia. So serious the problem that the orang utans may join the ranks of the dodo and the Moa. She did it so well that she won a prize which propelled her to a television appearance and a trip to Malaysia.

The greenies cheered when KFC stopped using palm oil in their kitchens. More recently, Cadbury announced it would replace palm oil in their chocolate production. LUSH Cosmetics, a leading cosmetics-maker, will no longer use palm oil.

Over in West Malaysia, where I took these photos, the land now planted with oil palm trees were previously planted with rubber for more than a hundred years. They have not been planted at the sacrifice of the felling of virgin forest. The harm had been done during the British Colonial days.

But in Sarawak, when I was flying from Miri to Mulu, I did see virgin rainforest being replanted with oil palm. These forests were not cleared specifically for the palm oil trees. The state had benefited from harvesting the trees. Timber brings in a lot of income.

Oil palm provides jobs, and gives income to many especially the lower social strata. The government had banned burning of old leaves, and some are used as mulching, to prevent more haze.


Ruth said...

There are usually two sides to environmental issues. Thanks for presenting them here. I recently discovered palm sugar and buy it in chunks at a Chinese supermarket in town.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

Palm Oil tree is different from the Palm sugar tree, the latter is called Attap tree, we call the sugar attap sugar or attap don in Chinese or gula meleka in Malay. It grows wild in Sarawak in the swampy coast. I don't know if they have it in West Malaysia.

The attap sugar is naturally brown,

Anonymous said...

Well, i still see palm oil being sold here in India through ration shops (government). I read its cholestrol free and good.