The oil palm originated from West Africa and was introduced by the British in the early 1870s to Malaysia, then Malaya, as an ornamental plant. In 1917, Henri Fauconnier, a French rubber and coffee planter saw its potential as a cash crop and commercially planted oil palms in Tennamaram Estate, Batang Berjuntai, Selangor.
The demand for palm oil as a lubricant for steam engines and other machinery during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century encouraged British conglomerates in Malaya such as Sime Darby Estate and Guthrie Plantation Group, to begin converting their rubber plantations to oil palms.
By 1925, about 3,350 hectares of oil palms had been grown in various parts of Malaya and the figures increased to about 20,000 hectares by the Second World War.
In the 1960s, the Malaysian Government began large-scale cultivation of oil palm under an agricultural scheme, aimed at eradicating poverty and improving the living standards of landless farmers. Soon after, the refining of crude palm oil started in the 1970s.
By the end of 2006, Malaysia was one of the largest producers and exporters of palm oil in the world, accounting for 43% of the world’s total palm oil production and 49% of total palm oil exports. Malaysia Palm Oil also
provided 11% of the world’s total production of oils and fats and 26% of export trade in the oils and fats market.
Today, about 90% of the total palm oil produced goes into food applications and the rest is used as key ingredients in non-food applications such as soaps, candles, lubricants and cosmetics.
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