If you take the Kuching-Sarikei road trip, you will increasingly see more oil palms on the pan-Borneo highway. Since the demise of the cocoa industry, the palm oil industry has been growing in prominence. The palm oil industry is not new in Sarawak though. The Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad (SOP) was formed in 1968 to pioneer the commercial planting of oil palms.
Young Oil Palms
Palm oil is used as cooking oil, for making magarine and is an ingredient in many types of processed food. It can be used to make soaps, washing powder and personal care products. It is also used as a feedstock for biofuels.
Truck carrying its harvest to the factory
Oil palm is native to West Africa and was introduced to Malaya in 1910 by by Scotsman William Sime and English banker Henry Darby. The initial plantations were operated by Britsh owners like Sime Darby. In the 1960s, a major oil palm plantation initiative was introduced by Malaysian government with the aim of solving the issue of rural poverty. (Source: Wikipedia).
Oil Palm fruit
Source: Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad.
Factory at Saratok between Sri Aman and Sarikei
Palm oil products are made using milling and refining process. Firstly, you fractionate it to produce the solid and liquid. Then by melting and degumming, impurities are removed and then the oil filtered and bleached. Next, refining removes smells and colouration to produce refined bleached deodorized palm oil (RBDPO for making cooking oil, etc) and free sheer fatty acids (for making soap, etc). (Source: Wikiepdia)
Sime Darby Plantation Sdn Bhd plans to invest an initial RM100 million to develop oil palm plantations on Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands in Julau (55km from Sarikei). For those involved, their future lies in the palm of their oily hands or rather in the oil palms...