Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) is Malaysia’s most important commodity crop, covering an area of nearly 5.85 million hectares as in 2019. Beginning as an ornamental plant in Kuala Selangor in 1911, the plant played a pivotal role in the development of the country, including the establishment of the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) to boost the economy of the Bumiputera. The industry was also one of the initiatives that saved the country during the 1997/1998 economic crisis. What is even more significant is the fact that the establishment of palm oil conglomerates such as Sime Darby Berhad and IOI Corporation Berhad proves the success of the Government policies on palm oil. Currently, however, the country’s palm oil industry is facing negative conjecture and acceptance from importing countries especially from the west. This phenomenon clearly impacts the palm oil industry, and affects nearly 2 million Malaysians whose livelihood depends on the industry. As such, the Malaysian government, through the Ministry of Primary Industries and statutory bodies such as the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), has undertaken many approaches to tackle the problem. Among the approaches undertaken is to campaign among the Malaysians. On March 24th, 2019, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched the “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign to bolster the spirit of love and pride among Malaysians towards Malaysian palm oil products.
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) is a higher learning institution focusing on agricultural education and researches in Malaysia. The Faculty of Food Science and Technology (FSTM), UPM, actively supports the National palm oil agendas through teaching and learning activities. Taught courses such as FST 3114 (Chemistry and Analysis of Food Macro-Components), FST 4826 (Animal and Plant Product Processing), FST 4834 (Fats and Oils Technology) have been developed to emphasise the importance of palm oil among the undergraduate and postgraduate students. In addition, palm oil-related researches are currently being conducted at FSTM especially by the Fats and Oils Research Group.
What is more encouraging is the fact that several FSTM budding lecturers namely Dr. Mohd. Dr. Sabri, Dr. Masni Yusoff, Dr. Nurul Shazini Ramli and Dr. Ahmad Haniff Jaafar have been collaborating with MPOC since 2017. The collaboration was initiated to increase knowledge and awareness of the palm oil industry among the students of FSTM. Various programs jointly conducted with MPOC, such as the MPOC Outreach Program, UPM’s Love My Palm Oil Student Ambassador Program and Learning Kit Development have been successfully implemented throughout this collaboration. This collaboration was seen to have a positive impact when several FSTM students were selected to carry out various activities to promote palm oil products with MPOC. In addition, several students have also been selected to be ambassadors in the “Palm Oil Student Ambassador Program” organised by the Ministry of Primary Industries.
Members of FSTM-MPOC collaboration team. From left to right: Dr Sabri, Dr. Haniff, Dr Shazini and Dr. Masni.
This collaboration continues to flourish, and in December 2018, FSTM successfully organised the “Nutri-Palm and Palm-Process Educational Program” which involved three other faculties within UPM (Agriculture, Medicine and Health Sciences, and Forestry). With the participation of more than 150 students and the positive feedback received following the completion of the program, the organisers were positively inspired to take their collaboration to a higher level.
On April 18th, 2019, the “CEO Day @ UPM 2019” program was successfully launched at the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Sultan Arts and Cultural Centre, UPM. With FSTM as the project director, and MPOC as the sponsor, the program attracted over 1,000 participants and 19 exhibitors. Several well-known Malaysian CEO’s such as Mr. Joseph Tek Choon Yee (CEO and Managing Director, IJM Plantation Berhad), Dato’ Azlin Ahmad Shaharbi (President, PENIAGAWATI), Mr. Seelan Paul (CEO of Radio Broadcasting Media Prima Berhad) and Mdm. Hjh. Nur Fatin Datuk Seri Ibrahim (Director of Operations, Dewina Holdings Sdn. Bhd.) graced the event, and shared their experiences and tricks of the trade in the industry. The highlight of the event was the inauguration of the TENERA UPM Association by YB Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, the Deputy Minister of Primary Industries. TENERA UPM is the first university student association in Malaysia which was established to support the sustainability agenda of agriculture, especially the palm oil industry. In line with the “Love MY Palm Oil” campaign, the TENERA UPM aims to promote and disseminate the correct information on the palm oil industry among UPM students particularly, and Malaysians generally. TENERA UPM comprises of UPM students from various disciplines of studies, and is currently headed by Mr. Muhammad Akmal Mohd Junaidi as its first president. To ensure that TENERA UPM runs smoothly in accordance with its founding objectives, Dr. Ahmad Haniff Jaafar (Senior Lecturer, FSTM) and Dr. Ruslan Abdullah (Director of Science and Environment, MPOC) have been selected as the co-Advisors of the association.
In addition to being the main driver of the “CEO Day @ UPM 2019” program, TENERA UPM is also actively involved in various activities organised at UPM and national levels. To applaud TENERA UPM’s active involvement in the promotion of palm oil, ten TENERA UPM’s representatives have been invited on July 5th, 2019 for the opening of the Malaysian Palm Oil Knowledge Centre at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which was officiated by YB Mdm. Teresa Kok, the Minister of Primary Industries. Members of the TENERA UPM has also been invited to jointly promote the MPOC palm oil promotion program held at the Mid Valley Megamall shopping complex, Kuala Lumpur on July 26-28th, 2019. In addition, TENERA UPM is also taking part in the short film competition co-organised by MPOC and IOI Corporation Berhad.
TENERA UPM has clear strong objective, leadership and plan to continue to achieve their vision of becoming the leading student association in promoting the palm oil industry. It is hoped that TENERA UPM’s efforts and commitment to help to promote and enhance the visibility of the Malaysian palm oil industry will receive continuous support from all parties, especially UPM and MPOC.
Prepared by: Ahmad Haniff Jaafar, Ph.D