THE PALM FRUIT AND PALM OIL
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil taken from the pulp of the fruits that grow on oil palms. To extract the oil, palm fruits are pressed in palm oil mills.
The oil palm fruit is almost spherical in shape. It consists of a hard seed (kernel) enclosed in a shell (endocarp) which is surrounded by fleshy husk (mesocarp).Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a tropical tree crop which is mainly grown for its ind ustrial pro duction of vegetative oil. It is a typical estate crop, grown and harvested over large uniform areas (3,000 to 5,000ha) around a central oil mill to allow rapid industrial handling after harvesting. Palm trees can also be observed in village gardens where they provide oil for local consumption, but in that case both yield and oil quality are much lower. Oil palm is a typical crop of the rainy tropical lowlands.
Trees reach a height of up to 30 feet and produce fruit bunches from three years of age. In each a year, a tree produces between 8 to 12 bunches of fruit. The time from flowering to harvesting of ripe fruits is 5-6 months. The fruit bunch is tightly wedged in the leaf axil of the palm. A bunch of a mature palm contains 1,000 to 4,000 fruits, depending on the tree’s age and vigor. A bunch weights at maturity 15-25kg, but can occasionally reach over 50kg.
The percentage of fruits per bunch is usually 50-65% and is lower in Tenera than in Dura due to the thicker shell of the latter. The egg-shaped fruits weigh 10-20g. The pulp(mesocarp) around the nut contains the red palm oil. The kernel in the nut contains oil very similar to coconut oil, but palm oil and palm kernel oil are chemically different.
The oil palm is a perennial crop which starts yielding palm fruits for oil about three years after planting and it has a continual productive lifespan of 25-30 years.Oil palm is a typical tree crop of the tropical rainforest. It can however hardly survive or reg enerate in dense secondary forest because of the lack of sunshine. This is also the reason why stand-alone trees in villages are gen erally much taller than in palm groves. For optimal growth and production the tree requires stable climatic conditions, in particular with respect to light and moisture supply. Any deviation from these conditions enhances a yield decrease. Oil palm thrives best in lowlands below 300-400m altitude. Under a favorable microclimate it can also occur at much higher altitudes, as is the case on Mount Cameroon, where palms are observed up to 1,300m elevation, or in the Fouta Djalon area in Guinea. In East Africa palm trees can be found at altitudes up to 1,000 m.
Palm oil is an edible plant oil that is naturally reddish as it contains high amounts of beta-carotene. Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and the maripa palm Attalea maripa.
Palm oil, like all fats, is composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol. Palm oil has an especially high concentration of saturated fat, specifically the 16-carbon saturated fatty acid, palmitic acid, to which it gives its name. Monounsaturated oleic acid is also a major constituent of palm oil. Unrefined palm oil is a significant source of tocotrienol, part of the vitamin E family.
The highly saturated nature of palm oil renders it solid at room temperature in temperate regions, making it a cheap substitute for butter or hydrogenated vegetable oils in uses where solid fat is desirable, such as the making of pastry dough and baked goods. The health concerns related to trans fats in hydrogenated vegetable oils may have contributed to the increasing use of palm oil in the food industry.
Palm oil is extracted from the mesocarp and from the kernel after being separated from the mesocarp.The total yield of about 4.5t (4t palm oil and 0.5t palm kernel oil) per hectare, it is the most productive oil crop in the world, being 10 times more productive then soyabean, which produces only about 0.45t of oil per hectare. This means that to produce the same volume of oil, oil palm will only need one-tenth of the area required by soyabean. This is an important consideration when comes to land expansion for oilseeds cultivation, production efficiency and consistent supply of edible oils to feed the increasing world population.
PALM OIL MILL EFFLUENT (POME) IS A BY-PRODUCT PRODUCED DURING PALM OIL PRODUCTION
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THE ADVANTAGES OF PALM OIL
Amongst the worlds most popular vegetable oils, Palm Oil is by far the most versatile.
Palm Oil use is increasing globally. From about 50 million tonnes in 2011, consumption is predicted to grow to at least 77 million tonnes in 2050