(File pix) The palm oil industry is an important component of the economy.

MALAYSIA will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its palm oil industry on May 18. The birth of the industry is widely recognised as the first time oil palm was planted commercially in the country in 1917 at the Tennamaram E state in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor.

The growth of the industry, especially from the 1970s, has been phenomenal and has taken the industry to new heights never seen before in the world as millions of hectares in the country have now been planted with oil palm. It has transformed the socio-economy of rural areas and helped in the alleviation of poverty.

Other nations have followed our model. Our success in the elimination of rural poverty can be attributed to the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) oil palm plantations nationwide. This golden crop has cushioned the e conomy when other export sectors were affected by an economic slowdown globally.

Both the corporate sector and Felda have contributed much to make the industry an important component to the national economy.

However, the future of the industry is fraught with changes and challenges due to environmental, health, labour, productivity and sustainability issues, as well as strict rules such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil regulations.

Local and international researchers need to work, and experiment, more to increase productivity, and ensure that a greater part of the tree as well as the waste from the milling process can be put to more beneficial use and byproducts. This could lead to reducing the opposition to palm oil by some

multinational firms, non-governmental organisations and countries.

Greater acceptance of palm oil could occur when the tree and fruits are regarded as being multipurpose, where the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) recently held an International Competition on Oil Palm Mechanisation to enhance productivity and profitability by way of new creative designs. However, the contest was not well advertised locally and many who were interested have not been able to participate as the deadline for entries was May 12. A further extension could enable more participants to take part.

The participation fee of RM300 should only be for foreigners and firms and waived for local individuals keen on supporting the palm oil industry.

This would have enabled them to give their input and suggestions through drawings and descriptions.

Additionally, more competitions such as an essay contest for tertiary students and the public, as well as a photography contest could be held to mark the centennial celebration. MPOB needs to mark the oil palm centenary in a more vibrant, lively and colourful way to commemorate this milestone event.

V. THOMAS

Sg Buloh, Selangor

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