Palm oil, unlike most of the edible oils, is extracted from the fruit pulp (mesocarp). However, palm kernel oil is extracted from kernel. The African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis Jacq., is placed in the same subfamily as that of coconut palm, the Cocosoideae. There are two important species of oil palm are cultivated in the world Elaeis guineensis (African Oil Palm) and Elaeis olifera (American Oil Palm). Of the two, E. guineensis is the most widely grown species particularly in Malaysia.       


        Oil palm thrives well in hot and wet tropical lowlands. The major production regions receive at least 6 ft of rain per year, evenly distributed, with at least 4" per month if a short dry season exists. Yields are directly dependent on rainfall. Optimal temperatures are in the range of 80 and 90°F. Oil palm is generally cultivated within a few hundred ft from sea level, although some cultivars have been bred to tolerate lower temperatures at higher elevations (e.g., ‘Tanzania x Ekona'). High humidity and cloudiness prevail in most regions, but 5 to 7 hours of direct sunlight per day is beneficial.

Composition of palm oil

       Further, the oil is available in different forms in the market such as Crude Palm Oil (CPO), Crude Palmolein, RBD (refined, bleached, deodorized) Palm Oil, RBD Palmolein and Crude Plam Kernel Oil (CPKO). Palm fruit contains nearly 60 per cent of oil

        Palm oil contains palmitic acid, a mono-unsaturated oleic acid, poly-unsaturated linoleic acid and stearic acid. The typical blend in palm oil is 45 per cent palmitic, 40 per cent oleic, 10 per cent linoleic and 5 per cent stearic.  Palm oil's naturally balanced fatty acid composition offers food manufacturers greater latitude to formulate hydrogenated fat-free and trans fat-free products. Palm oil is rich in carotenoids (pro Vitamin A), tocotrienols and tocopherols (Vitamin E). Further, it contains no trans fatty acids that are considered to be harmful for human health as they enhance blood cholesterol formation.

Table 1: composition of palm fruit and oil


Oil palm fruit

Palm oil

Water (%)



Protein (%)



Fat (%)



Carbohydrates (%)



Crude Fiber (%) 



World scenario

Of all the oilseeds, oil palm gives the highest per hectare yield. Production, consumption and trade of palm in the world have uniformly been increasing during the past four years but are expected to decline marginally in 2005-06.

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