While delivering a batch of oil palm fruits, we were able to take a tour of the palm oil refinery premises. Our tour guide brought us to the different areas of the plant such as the packing area for their cooking oil, and the laboratory where the different types of the palm oil were separated into refined, bleached or deodorized oil. RD learned a lot about the oil palm he’s only known as a tree. He also learned the many uses of palm oil and how it was processed.
ABERDI stands for A. Brown Energy and Resources Development, Inc. It’s primary activity is the extraction process of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) to CPO (crude palm oil) in its mill plant situated in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon with a capacity of 10 tons per hour. Crude palm oil is the raw material that manufacturers use for processing both food and non-food commodities such as household cooking oil, biodiesel, soap, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, noodles and pasta, non-dairy creamers, etc. The sources of the FFBs are subsidiaries of ABERDI and various independent growers of oil palm in the Bukidnon area.
Palm fruits are extremely hard. When I picked at one with a fingernail, it was nearly impossible to scratch the surface. They must be softened before anything can be done. The first step is to ‘cook’ them for one hour with high-pressure, high-temperature steam (300 psi, 140 degrees Celsius).
Palm oil is more nutritious than most people think.
- Crude palm oil is very rich in phytonutrients such as vitamin E tocotrienols (essential for the health of our nervous system due to their neuroprotective properties), carotenoids (pro-vitamin A, essential for our immune system and the development of our tissues and bones).
- Studies have shown that Vitamin A deficiency in children (which may cause poor development and even blindness) can be easily corrected by feeding them biscuits baked with red palm oil.
- Palm oil also contains squalene and palm phenolics. Recent animal studies showed palm phenolics to be good for controlling the onset of diabetes.
Palm oil contains saturated fats … which may not be so bad after all!
- Fats have always been a complex topic. In the late 1940s, the scientist Ancel Keys came out with the hypothesis that saturated fats are bad because they are linked to heart diseases. This hypothesis was based on a study which he claimed was conducted in seven countries. It was later found out that his study was conducted in more than 15 countries but he reported the results of only seven countries that fitted his hypothesis! Consequently, the hypothesis is challenged today.
- Today, we know the real culprits behind increased risk of heart diseases are trans fat and high-carbohydrate diets (especially carbohydrates with high glycemic index).
- Our palm oil is, in fact, a healthy oil. When used for deep frying, it is able to withstand degradation better than most edible oils. Moreover, at least three studies involving humans have shown that it is comparable to olive oil in terms of cardiovascular risk outcomes (cholesterol profiles).
The palm oil is good for our economy, as long as laws and limitations are imposed and applied.
The palm oil industry – from palm oil cultivation, production, to processing of cooking oil as well as down processing of downstream oleochemical and household products – has created plenty of job opportunities. Our export earnings from palm oil and related products have served our economy well.
Also, palm oil is affordable. As the world population grows, there may be a shortage of edible oils in the near future. Our palm oil is going to be the solution to this problem.
But what about the rainforests?
Many people worry that the palm oil industry is destroying the rainforests and precious animal habitats. We bet you didn’t know:
- Approximately 80 percent of the palm oil in the U.S. is grown and produced in Malaysia. Malaysian palm oil is certified sustainable.
- Malaysia is committed to saving its rainforests. At the 1988 Earth Summit, Malaysia committed to preserving more than half of its rainforests. It’s preserved even more than that. There are also stringent policies covering wildlife protection and rehabilitation.
- As we consume more palm oil, there is less stress on our natural resources than if we increased our use of other edible seed oils. The oil palm is the most efficient oil-bearing crop in the world.
Oil palms are able to produce fruit for harvest within 4 to 6 years of planting, if fertilized well. Life expectancy is 28 to 30 years on average, at which point they are usually 40 feet / 12 metres high and it becomes too hard to harvest the heavy fruit bundles using extension poles.
FACT BIT: The tree is called an “Oil Palm Tree” while the product (the oil) is called “Palm Oil.”