KUALA LUMPUR: Oil palm planting can play a vital role in West Africa’s future as it has in Southeast Asia’s economic rise, Malaysian Palm Oil Council chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron said.
“The African continent is expected to more than double its population by 2030 … if the world is going to address the growing issue of food security, a strategic move would be to plant more efficient oil crops like oil palm,” he told an international audience at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s International Palm Oil Congress 2013 here yesterday.
Yusof said United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organisation had, time and again, issued reports that nearly a quarter of the world’s population live on less than US$2 (RM6) a day and that one in eight people, particularly those living in developing nations, go to bed hungry.
“Palm oil is the powerhouse in the oils and fats market and is a suitable crop for farmers in tropical developing countries. The oil palm is native to the continent and thrives in sub-Saharan Africa’s moist, wet climate. It is a high-calorie, nutritious product that will be a key component of any anti-hunger effort,” he said.
The yield from oil palms is seven times higher than rapeseeds a hectare and 10 times that of soyabeans.
Currently, oil palms are cultivated in Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, Central and West Africa and Latin America, all of which are developing countries in the humid tropics. The trees are planted by some 10 million farmers across the equatorial belt.
At the same time, it feeds billions of people in China, India and other developing nations.
Yusof also highlighted some of the benefits of agriculture-led development that can accrue to smallholders in West Africa. He said Malaysia set the global standard in this area when it implemented its innovative Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) programme to ensure that smallholders share equitably in the rising prosperity that comes with plantation agriculture.
This path-breaking Malaysian programme has inspired Liberia’s Outgrowers Scheme undertaken by Sime Darby Bhd, an effort to support Liberia’s small farmers.
Palm oil is a major revenue earner for Malaysia and it can provide sustainable and green opportunities for other developing countries.
Yusof said the insight, technology and hard-won business savviness of Malaysian palm oil investors will help kick-start West Africa’s nascent palm oil industry.
“Palm oil production respects and adopts the three principles of sustainability – people, planet and profits. Investment in oil palm cultivation must continue because palm oil addresses food security and the need for trans fat free food items at affordable pricing,” he said.
Source : Business Times