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Palm Oil Production and Export: a Typical model of a foreign Exchange Earner

Updated on February 16, 2011

Palm oil many people don't know is a foreign exchange earner and the main stay of some Industrial economies especially in South-East Asia, read on and see how..

Palm oil like crude, gold, cocoa etc have become a typical export commodity; and its production for export to international markets gaining prominence, with countries like Malaysia, Indonesia leading the pack, with the others like Nigeria following the trail

The world over, palm oil no doubt is fast becoming an indispensable factor in every home, most especially in the hot tropics of Africa and the monsoon regions of Asia. This trend is really alarming, not just because of this yellowish or reddish oil’s high vitamin A content, but because of its tendency to be a high product for export. Generally it is known that palm oil is used in the manufacture of soap and candles. Palm oil is also the largest source of palmitic acid, a fatty acid used in numerous commercial processes; especially in the production of soaps and candles as well as the more valuable palm kernel oil obtained from the seed kernels of the fruit (whitish in nature).

This white oil has a pleasant odor and nutty flavor and is used in making margarine. But this article is not intended to re-visit the generic use of the plant, but to present to you from the scratch, the local or traditional means of obtaining pure palm oil from the fruit, and how this chain of production can present a commodity that is worth its weight in gold, and as such has a high export value.

This article will discuss the traditional process of obtaining pure palm oil from palm oil fruit as practiced by the Imo people of South-Eastern Nigeria, as this is where I come from and it will be natural that I present to you the heritage of my people. The vast land of this region is surrounded by palm trees which beautify the entire city, a view that greets you when you enter the State; leaving you ecstatic and nostalgic as well. However, I don’t want to bother you with all these preambles, but I can’t help it as this is how I feel any time I’m home in Imo: now to the real deal, I will discuss this topic: palm oil production and export on four levels as enumerated below;

This is Gold, he knows this...

Palm Oil production in details...

1) Harvesting of the fruit: this happens to be the most tedious part of the job, as you need a skilled climber to do that for you. Now the climber gets to the top of the tree aided by a strong rope or string intertwined into a kind of lock. This string is very strong and the climber ties it around his waist as well as around the circumference of the palm tree, then the climb up begins with him dragging himself gently, till he gets to the crown of the tree, but this exercise need to be done with utmost care as incidence of accidents resulting from falling off the tree or not tying the rope properly or climbing the tree when its body is still wet from the morning dew or rain with the victim dieing or maimed for life that is he survives have been recorded times with out number, a gory experience of one climber from my community who died as a result of climbing the tree still wet from dew is still fresh in my memory. The guy woke up that fateful day, went to the bush to cut down a palm fruit for a client, oblivious of the danger of climbing wet palm trees, he fell of the tree dashing his skulls on the ground and the rest is history, so absolute care is to be taken when embarking on this quest, back to where I was, the climber on getting to the top of the tree clears off all the shoots and branches around the fruit, then cuts it down sending a powerful thud below as the fruit goes down.

2) Shearing of the fruit: every process as regards palm oil production is quite interesting, and considering its export value; every process should be done with care. Now shearing of the fruit happens to be one very amusing part of the entire process. How do you do this, very simple yet technical as it needs rapt attention; all you need do is get a very sharp machete, hold the fruit vertically, then you start gently from the top of the fruit till you get to the base shearing off the stalk, after this process is completed a two day interval is given to allow the fruit some time to ease of from its thorny stems, to make it relatively easy to pick. The next thing is picking the fruit from the stems, after which it is stored in a sack bag for a few more days to enable the fruit release a lot of oil for final processing.

3) Extracting Oils From the fruit: like I said before, every process in the production of palm oil is kind of interesting as well as tedious, but this process happens to be the most important in these long chain of preparation, it is so because palm fruit can be converted to a thousand and one other uses apart from extracting palm oil from it. For example you can use the fruit in cooking; it could be used as amber for making fires and a dozen others. To extract palm oil from the fruit, the following process or processes are followed to the latter;

a) put about 8 to 9 liters of water on the fire, note that you need a very large cooking pot, the kind of pot used in cooking bulk items, have you pictured the kind of pot I’m talking about? Oh! You have right? I see you get the clue. The water is now on fire, about 30 minutes interval is allowed to get the water to the desired temperature, after which the fruit is poured into the pot. While the fruit is still on fire, the next thing is getting the place ready for pounding the fruit in a big mortar, and of course getting the hydraulic press ready for extracting the oils after pounding.

b) Once the fruit is properly cooked for easy pounding, it is scooped with a large silver or wooden spoon. Wooden spoon preferably to avoid heat burns to the fingers. When all the content in the pot have been placed in the mortar, then the pounding begins, in pounding the fruit, care is to be taken to avoid unnecessary cracking of the seeds or kernel, as this is another very vital part of the fruit; now as it gets to a particular texture, red sand is added to the content in the mortar, I know you would probably be wondering why laterite is added, well this is to give the oil a pleasant smell and also a rich red color

c) Immediately the desired texture has been achieved, then the content is picked either manually or by the use of specialized instruments for separating the mashed flesh from the kernels. But I’ll dwell with the manual process other than the latter, as this is the one I’m more used to. As soon as the picking is completed, the severed content is placed in another pot to cook for some minutes; this is to enable the oil flow freely as it has congealed when the picking was going on. When the temperature is certified okay, it is then put in a bag and then sent to the hydraulic press to extract the oil. The press is turned constantly, with the oils pouring in torrents then in trickle, until it stops and water runs out finally as a by product. The pure red oil is collected and stored in kegs or any good storage facility within the home. This leads us to the final part, where the reward of all this hard work is reaped, that is making sales

4) Sales and Export: it is known that in any chain of production, the middle man benefits more: pail oil production being no exception. It is very unfortunate that we the producers are still getting pea nuts after all our efforts to get this product to the end user. This is one of the issues this article is going to address in brief as this topic will be discussed in detail in my subsequent write ups. Surprisingly, I really love to take the role of a middle man in the course of any production, and this is going to be my focal point, “the role of the middle man” as a middle man, taking stock of the value of the product in international market is your first step, and you can do this by a survey which you can easily get by mouth, contacts and the newest and I think the most reliable, the internet. Immediately you achieve this, you get the product aligned and listed in any platform at the international commodity market, make your sales and reap the benefits, palm oil having a very high export value is your sure bet and a veritable foreign exchange earner. Have this in mind, palm oil and its constituents and by products are needed every day by industries that manufacture candles, margarine, soaps and detergents etc, if you want to get a feel of what I’m saying take a visit to Malaysia and see the wonders been achieved in many industrial manufacturing sectors using palm oil as a raw material, that even auto lubricants used in operating heavy machineries have been manufactured using palm oil.

This is the more reason Palm oil production should be encouraged most importantly as an export and foreign exchange earner and also as an alternative to other renewable forms of energy like crude

So take it up today!


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    • profile image

      Emewulu Tochukwu 5 years ago

      Ur xplanation was good.

    • chinemeremz profile image

      chinemeremz 5 years ago

      @ayedun omodele- thanks for your comments, its good you find this useful.

      @Jelilat thanks also for finding this piece"comprehensive and explanatory" and thanks also for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Olosho jelilat 5 years ago

      Infact it is very comprehensive and explanatory

    • profile image

      Ayedun Omodele 5 years ago

      You ave really done a great job.Keep it up.

    • profile image

      Ayedun Omodele 5 years ago

      You ave really done a great job.

    • chinemeremz profile image

      chinemeremz 6 years ago

      Yes and No, but in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South East Asia where this art thrives, palm fruits are harvested by using specially made pulley-like climber to get to the apex of the tree.

      But these days, most Palm trees are not above 5 feet, so you can easily stand on your feet on the ground and cut it down very easily; these are hybrid palm trees and as a matter of fact; this is what is now the trend agriculturally.

      Thanks for your comments, and thanks for stopping by

    • profile image

      donkelly 6 years ago

      does it mean that a palm fruit cannot be harvest without climbing