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RED PALM OIL SOURCE TOUR

HOW OUR RED PALM OIL IS MADE

Harvesting and Transportation of Bunches.
The oil palm tree produces fresh fruit bunches all year round, but there are periods of high and low productivity. The majority of the oil is formed in the last two weeks of this process and a correct judgment of the ripeness is essential to assure a good production. The bunch is removed from the plant by hand with the aid of harvesting tools (sacho and scythe).

The main extraction step processes are:

Sterilization: The bunches are cooked with live steam for 90 120 minutes. Sterilization objectives are: Lipase enzyme inactivation, making fruits easily release from bunches, making fruits softer, making nut/pulp separation easier, and coagulation of proteins.

Threshing: After bunches are cooked they are fed to the thresher which is a drum with holes in the side where bunches are centrifuged to separate the fruits.

Digestion and Pressing: Fruits are lifted by a cup elevator to the top of the digester vessel. This vessel contains a live steam heating system and agitator shafts. The main aim during digestion is to break oily cells, in order to make oil extraction easier. This process takes 30 minutes at 90 100 C. Pressing is made just after the material leaves the digestion vessels and it produces a slurry made of approximately 53% oil, 40% water and 7% solids and also a cake that consists of fiber and nuts.

Clarification, Purification, and Packaging: This step consists of separation of oil from impurities (water and fine solids) made in settling tanks and three phase decanters. Recovered oil is then purified in plate centrifuges and dried under vacuum. Finally, the Extra Virgin Palm Oil is filtered to remove any remaining particulate matter and packaged in drums.

Oil Extraction Losses: Empty bunches and solids from clarification are used as organic fertilizers on certified organic plantation. Fibers still have around 7% oil and shells are used in the boilers as fuel. As a result, all extraction mills are able to generate their own electricity by steam turbines.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS PROCESS

Red palm oil is also used in health and beauty care. Local herbal doctors believe that red palm oil has strong anti-microbial properties. It is also used as a to counter the effect of poisons and as a laxative. Red palm oil is also widely used on the skin as a moisturizer and healing agent. It is also an excellent base for smooth, gentle soaps.

THE IMPORTANCE OF PALM VARIETY

Plant breeders created the hybrid variety Tenera by crossing the Dura and Pisifera. The Dura has a large nut with a thick shell and thin mesocarp. The Pisifera is a small fruit with no shell. The Tenera fruit has a thick mesocarp and a thin husk. The Tenera nut is small and is easily shelled to release the palm kernel.

The Tenera is considered a better variety because it yields a higher amount of oil and it is easy to extract the oil.

THE HISTORY OF PALM OIL

The oil palm, Elaeis guineensis, is native to equatorial West Africa. The main oil palm belt of West Africa runs through the southern latitudes of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon and into Zaire and Angola. Humans have consumed palm oil for tens of thousands of years. Written records of palm oil are available from Portuguese travelers to West Africa in the 15th century. However, fatty residues with analytical characteristics of oxidized palm oil dating back to 5000 BC have been found in Egyptian pyramids.

Exports of palm oil to Europe in large quantities began in the late 18th century. After the anti-slavery legislation in the first part of the 19th century, traders needed an alternative to the lucrative slavery trade from West Africa to North & South America and the Caribbean, and trade in palm oil increased tremendously. The establishment of trade in palm oil from West Africa was mainly the result of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. As people in Europe began to take sanitation and hygiene seriously, demand for soap increased, resulting in the demand for vegetable oil suitable for soap manufacture and other technical uses, such as tinplating. In the early 1870s, exports of palm oil from the Niger Delta were 25,000 to 30,000 tons per year and by 1911 the British West African territories exported 87,000 tons.

Africa led the world in production and export of palm oil throughout the first half of the 20th century, lead by Nigeria and Zaire. By 1966, however, Malaysia and Indonesia had surpassed Africa's total palm oil production. The oil palm was introduced into South Asia in 1848 as an ornamental tree. Commercial exploitation as an export crop started in Sumatra after 1910 and in Malaysia in the 1920s. Palm oil developments in South East Asia continued, and today, South East Asia exports far more palm oil than Africa, with Malaysia producing over 50% of the world's total refined palm oil exports.

Sources:

  • Kurt Berger. Palm Oil. http://www.britanniafood.com/german/invite_02.htm?- Kwasi Poku. 2002.
  • Small-Scale Palm Oil Processing in Africa FAO AGRICULTURAL SERVICES BULLETIN 148 FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
  • Agbanga Karite – Copyright 2005