THE Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) is proposing a heavier fine of RM2 million for criminals who deceive planters into buying and planting low yielding oil palm seedlings.
Currently, those found guilty are only fined up to RM250,000 or jailed up to three years, or both. “There is a need for heavier sentencing as the current penalty does not reflect the severity of the crime,” said MPOB deputy director general Dr Salmiah Ahmad.
MPOB is now taking a more serious stance on oil palm seed scams as it is found to be one of the main causes for the country’s average yield stagnating at four tonnes per hectare a year for the last 20 years.
Many smallholders have been duped but they cannot be blamed because it is difficult to differentiate a genuine crossbred seedling of dura and psifera (DXP) strains from fake ones.
These fake seeds will only yield five to 10 tonnes of fresh fruit bun-ches a year compared with DXP seeds, which will yield 25 tonnes.
Cross breeding DXP seeds takes time and they are sold for RM2 per seed. Malaysia’s strategy to remain the most productive oil palm producer in the world is mainly buoyed by the government policy of using DXP seeds, tissue cultured and clonal palms.
Yesterday, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok launched the Malaysian Oil Palm Nurseries Association (Mopna) in Bangi, Selangor. He advised smallholders to be more discerning. “We must remember that whatever we plant will remain in the ground for the next 20 to 25 years. It is therefore absolutely essential that we get it right the first time, ensuring that only superior planting materials reach the fields,” he said.
Under the national replanting strategy to reduce palm oil supply in the immediate months and boost supply in the longer term, RM200 million has been allocated to encourage the replanting of 200,000ha. MPOB has, so far, approved of 160,000ha for replanting this year.
Earlier this year, the Finance Ministry allocated RM50 million more to MPOB to supply seedlings and fertilisers to independent smallholders who do not get support from other government agencies like Felda, Felcra or Risda. It works out to be RM6,000 per hectare spread over three years.
Mopna president Azhari Wasi Mohd Jamli said half of its 60 members already received MPOB’s oil palm nursery certificate of competency.
Malaysia’s palm oil output, down 4 per cent in the first half from a year ago, is likely to fall further as the government continues to chop down unproductive oil palm trees.
“Replanting is a two-pronged strategy. It will immediately cut off some oil supply into the market, but, in the mid-term, oil yield will improve,” Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said.
The minister is optimistic of buoyant palm oil prices in the months ahead.
In an interview in Putrajaya yesterday, Dompok said he had told the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to speed up replanting efforts. “The RM200 million budget has been allocated, MPOB must speed up the implementation,” he said.
Asked to comment on conflicting price forecasts by several plantation analysts, Dompok said: “Analysts and traders like Dorab Mistry can forecast from time to time. But you have also seen their predictions were not accurate.
“Palm oil prices are essentially subjected to market forces. You also have to consider the strength of the US dollar against ringgit and the amount of rainfall in oil palm plantations.
“If you ask me, I would not be able to give a specific forecast to palm oil prices. But I can assure you the government is committed to tightening palm oil supply in the immediate term.”
Last year, Malaysia produced 17.7 million tonnes of crude palm oil. In the first six months of this year, the output was only 7.92 million tonnes, about 4 per cent less than a year ago.
Dompok estimates this year’s palm oil output at 17 million tonnes, 700,000 tonnes less than last year’s all-time high. “There is already a supply shortage, compared to last year, because of replanting. Also, since many smallholders cut back on fertiliser usage a year ago, we’re seeing smaller and fewer fruit bunches,” he said.
Yesterday, the third-month benchmark September contract on Bursa Malaysia’s Derivatives Exchange fell RM20 or 1 per cent to RM1,990 per tonne, the weakest level since March 30.
Fancy a cholesterol-lowering McDonald’s cheeseburger? How about Coca-Cola packed with antioxidants to boost your immune system?
This may soon become a reality as Malaysian palm oil vitamins producers are spending US$38,500 (RM134,750) to apply for GRAS status from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to gain access into the functional food and beverage market there.
GRAS is acronym for “generally regarded as safe” while functional food refers to meals specifically made for health use. According to Datamonitor’s report, Americans spent US$40 billion (RM140 billion) on functional foods, drinks and supplements last year, 38 per cent higher than 2003.
“MPOB is funding half the cost of GRAS-status group applications,” said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.
“Malaysia is the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil vitamin E. It is imperative that our producers are able to penetrate deeper into the US market to fully realise their investments here,” he told Business Times.
There are five palm tocotrienols producers in Malaysia. They are Sime Darby Bioganic Sdn Bhd, Carotech Bhd, Carotino Sdn Bhd, Supervitamins Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of Keck Seng (M) Bhd) and Palm Nutraceuticals Sdn Bhd (a unit of Kim Loong Resources Bhd). Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd, via its unit Davos Life Sciences Pte Ltd, is producing and exporting palm tocotrienols from Singapore. IOI Corp Bhd’s unit Lipid Nutrition in the Netherlands recently brandnamed its palm tocotrienols extracts “VitaTrin”.
Each company has its own extraction method. While Carotech and Supervitamins extract tocotrienols from virgin crude palm oil, others distil this antioxidant from palm fatty acid distillate. Carotech currently supplies to 70 per cent of the world’s tocotrienol market.
Last year, companies in Malaysia exported RM50 million worth of palm oil vitamins. This nutrient extracts are mainly used in the health supplement and cosmetic markets. Palm oil vitamin usage is still very small in the whole scheme of the US health supplement market and this presents opportunities. The vitamin E market alone is estimated to be US$400 million (RM1.4 billion).
In a separate telephone interview from New Jersey, Carotech Inc vice-president W.H. Leong explained that in the US, dietary supplement is regulated under the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act 1994. “We’re required to notify FDA whenever we introduce a new dietary supplement to the market,” he said.
Another law – Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act – requires manufacturers and distributors who wish to market dietary supplements that contain “new” ingredients to notify the FDA. The term “new” dietary ingredient is meant for those not sold in the US in a food supplement before October 15 1994.
Selling and marketing palm oil vitamins in itself is tough as not many consumers are aware of the unique health benefits of palm tocotrienols over the more commonly known tocopherol vitamin E. Coupled with compounding issues such as palm oil being high in saturates and allegations of oil palm planting not being sustainable, it has been a challenging 15 years for Carotech. But the group persevered and continues to promote palm tocotrienols via scientific research, studies and clinical trials at hospitals in the US and Malaysia.
Carotech is the only tocotrienol producer that has a sales and marketing office in the US. “We constantly have to dispel misinformation about palm oil in the US,” Leong said.
Generally, consumers around the world are not aware that tocotrienols is a more potent form of vitamin E with unique health benefits not shown by the regular tocopherol vitamin E. The industry needs to allocate more money to effectively inform consumers on the neuro- and-cardiovascular health benefits of tocotrienols.
Palm oil contains more nutrients than any other dietary oil. Apart from beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene, it contains at least the full spectrum of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, co-enzyme Q10, squalene, phytosterols, flavonoids, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, phenolic acids and glycolipids.” Indeed, palm oil is packed with a host of potent antioxidants and is in many ways, a life-saver,” Leong said.
As the largest and the world’s leading supplier of palm oil nutrient extracts, Carotech brands its supply of natural palm oil vitamin E, Tocomin and mixed carotene (pro-vitamin A) extracts, Caromin. For now, Carotech is the world’s only GMP-certified tocotrienol producer.
Below is a red palm oil article written by my colleague at New Sunday Times, Tan Bee Hong.
When it comes to cooking oil, there’s more to the colour red than just good looks. The hue comes from natural carotenes and other nutrients that’s good for health, writes TAN BEE HONG.
Think of what that this gorgeous colour can do to food. Thus began my love affair with Carotino some 15 years ago. Though I must admit being drawn to the colour initially, that was not what sustained my interest in the oil.
I learnt too that the oil is rich in phytonutrients such as natural carotenes, tocotrienols and tocopherols (Vitamin E), co-enzyme Q10 and is cholesterol-free. The distinctive golden hue comes from the alpha and beta carotenes that give carrots, tomatoes and red peppers their colour.
Likewise, home economist and queen of nonya cuisine Florence Tan was drawn to the colour of Carotino cooking oil but for a different reason. “I first saw Carotino when it was first introduced into the market. It reminded me immediately of the crude palm oil that we had to make do with during the Japanese Occupation,” she says.
“Everything was in short supply then and our Malay neighbours in Malacca told my parents to try the palm oil, saying it’s very nutritious. Of course in those days, it was just crude palm oil and was rather smelly as it wasn’t processed.”
She was totally excited to find that while Carotino retained all the goodness of palm oil, it was now very palatable. “I use it everyday now. It’s great for making salad dressings like Thousand Island. I use it to bake breads and carrot cake. Oh, you should see the colour of the carrot cake… beautiful! When you fry eggs with it, it adds a lovely sheen… and use it for fried rice and nasi tomato.”
She admits there are certain limitations, especially where Chinese style stirfried green vegetables are concerned or dishes like Cantonese fried noodles. “But you can use it for mixed vegetables with no problems,” she says.
Tan is a youthful 64, who claims her lifestyle is so fast-paced that age hasn’t been able to catch up. “What’s my secret? I’m contented and I am relaxed. I never push myself to the max. If I’m happy with a slice of bread, I won’t stress out to get a whole loaf,” she says, chuckling. “Most of all, I’m thankful that I still have my passion for cooking. The fire hasn’t gone out yet.”
Looking slim and svelte, Tan says she has no problems with food. “Semua pun makan. That’s the joy of life. I must have my fruit juices in the morning as well as oats and raisin. I love roti canai and mee mamak. I eat lots of vegetables and I eat in moderation.”
Even before she started going to school, Tan knew exactly what she wanted in life. “My mother had a catering business and I used to watch her cook using firewood for fuel. She would pound the chili with her eyes closed – I only found out why much later,” she recalls, laughing loudly.
Today, Tan is a spokesperson for the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and works closely with Carotino to do cooking demonstrations at events, in schools and in colleges. She says: “It wasn’t easy in the beginning. When the Chinese see the oil, they immediately think of the red-coloured oil used to light prayer lamps. At that time, everybody thought corn oil and sunflower oil were the best. But now, the younger generation is much more receptive and they know which oil is better for their health.”
Tan will be sharing her recipes for Mysore Chicken and Quashry Rice using Carotino red palm oil at during the Malaysia International Food and Beverage Trade Fair at the PWTC in Kuala Lumpur on July 11 at 11am. The fair runs from July 9 to 11.
5 tbsp Carotino cooking oil
500g chicken, cut into pieces
1 tsp mustard seeds
2½ cm cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 sprigs curry leaves
1½ tsp garlic, pounded
2 big onions, sliced
2 tbsp curry powder, mix with 3 tbsp water
125 ml water
1 red chili, seed and cut into squares
1 green chili, seed and cut into squares
6tbsp tomato sauce
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soya sauce
A pinch of chicken granules
A pinch of pepper
1. Heat Carotino cooking oil and fry mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and curry leaves.
2. Add garlic, fry till fragrant and add onions and curry paste.
3. When fragrant, add chicken. Fry for a few minutes. Mix tomato sauce with salt, soya sauce, chicken granules and pepper. Pour in to pot together with 125ml water.
4. Cook till chicken is tender and sauce thick. Add chilies. Leave for two minutes. Dish out, garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice.