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When your aircraft glides for a touchdown at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, take a peek through the window. You will see a carpet of green foliage. It belongs to the oil palm, a native of Africa but thriving in Malaysia. Unlike the coconut or the rice whose significance is immediately identifiable, the oil palm rarely gets a bat of the eyelash from a layperson. Because the plant yields nothing that could be readily consumed, its importance as a versatile plant is easily disregarded.

There are basically two types of oil palm trees. The Elaeis guineensis is a native of West and Central Africa. The south American oil palm, Corozo oleifera, originates from Central and South America. Today, palm oil derived from Elaeis guineensis is used for many commercial purposes, from making chocolates to soaps to margarine, and maybe soon, to fueling cars.

Palm oil use can be traced back to Egypt during the reign of the Pharaohs. In the late 1800s, anthropologist M.C. Friedel stumbled upon an early tomb at Abydos dated 3000 B.C. In it was an earthen jar of an oily residue. Upon careful chemical analysis, this was later determined to be palm oil. The large quantity suggested the oil was used more for dietary purposes than as a mean of embalming. There were written records by European travelers of West African locals using the oil extensively for cooking. The oil palm Elaeis guineensis was typically self-seeded and not planted for commercial purposes. It wasn't until the 1830s, when palm oil export trade developed, deliberate plantings were made, beginning in the kingdom of Dahomey.

The Elaeis guineensis is a perennial crop that flourishes in the humid tropics between 10 degrees north latitude and 10 degrees south latitude. It fruits all year long and is the highest yielding oil crop. They're black when ripe, red at the base and yield two types of oils: palm oil and palm kernel oil. Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit. It is reddish-orange in color due to the high presence of carotenes, and has a distinctive taste. Palm kernel oil is extracted from the nut or kernel of the palm. It is yellowish-white in color with a pleasantly mild flavor. The oils are today used widely in the manufacture of various products, including margarine, shortenings, confectionery, biscuits, soaps and cosmetics. As a food, the vitamin A and E-rich palm oil has been included in the CODEX Alimentarius specification of the Food and Agricultural Organisation as a wholesome source of food for human consumption.

Like most other edible vegetable oils, palm oil is cholesterol-free. Palm oil is also anti-thrombotic, which means it can prevent blood clots in blood vessels or the heart. Used in a healthy diet, the oil helps raise good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. The invention of hydrogenation of oils and fats in 1902 had created a bigger market for palm oil in the West. Hydrogenation is a process by which liquid oils could be turned into plastic or hard fats to a controlled degree. As a result, vegetable oil-based 'shortenings' were produced to replace lard and beef tallow as ingredients for cakes, pastries, biscuits and frying fats.

Back in the 1980s, palm oil became a target of a massive negative advertising campaign. This included allegations that palm oil was 'hazardous to health'. Much of it had to do with the fact that palm oil was gaining a bigger slice of the industrial pie than the then favored soybean. The Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM) did not have enough evidence then to convince the world. After extensive research, the full potential of palm oil is exposed.

PORIM's extensive research into palm oil has yielded many new discoveries in both food and non-food applications. More recently, it extensively tested the use of palm-based methyl esters as a diesel substitute in cars. Other parts of the oil palm have also been successfully adapted for commercial use. The caked residues of crushed palm kernels are used as cattle feed in the Netherlands and Germany. Empty fruit bunches and fibers from palm fronds are used to make medium-density fiberboard and chipboard. The trunks could also be developed into furniture. Consistent with the industry's zero waste and zero burning concept. PORIM has made Malaysia's oil palm plantations more environmentally-friendly by recycling nutrient-rich oil palm residues as fertilizers. Disposed old palms are decomposed and returned to the fields as soil nutrients thus avoiding unnecessary burning. PORIM is also working with Malaysia's national car manufacturer, PROTON, to produce parts of cars from palm tree composites.

The oil palm is a unique plant. Every part of the plant can be used for some purpose, none is wasted. It has full potential, especially on downstream product use that has yet to be fully exploited.

Answer the following questions using complete sentences

From paragraph 2, what are the two types of oil palm ?


From paragraph 3,

a) since when has palm oil been in use ?

b) when did trading in palm oil develop ?


From paragraph 4,

a) state the conditions necessary for the growth of oil palm.

b) what special quality does this oil plant have ?

c) describe the Elaeis guineensis

d) which word in this paragraph has the same meaning as 'lasting for a long time' ?


From paragraph 8,  why is the oil palm a unique plant ?

  5. Use your own words to explain how PORIM encountered the negative reaction to palm oil in the mid 1980s.
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They are Elaeis guineensis and Corozo oleifera.


a) The use of palm oil can be traced back to Egypt during the reign of the Pharaohs.

b) In the 1830s.



a) It is a perennial crop that flourishes in the humid topics between 10 degrees north latitude and 10 degrees south latitudes.

b) It fruits all year long and is the highest yielding oil crop.

c) They are black when ripe, red at the base and yield two types of oils: palm oil and palm kernel oil.

d) Perennial



Every part of the plant can be used for some purpose and none is wasted.



By involving in a lot of research and proving to the world that it is a healthy type of oil.

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Comprehension 1


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