Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Business Knowledge of Palm Oil Fruit

African oil palm of Gabon

Gabon is 81% forest and has a tropical climate, always hot and constantly humid. The perfect climate to grow African oil palm trees, Elaeis guineensis. Palm oil is made from the fruit of the African oil palm. It’s been an essential type of oil for several millennia. Over the past several decades, it has become one of the world's most produced and used oils outside of Africa. 

Harvesting of fruits usually starts about 2½ years after field planting. African oil palm is a major oil crop, taking second place in the world vegetable oil supply after the soya bean. This is why palm oil is popular and highly versatile. It can withstand high temperatures, making it perfect for frying food, but use it sparingly as palm oil is about 49% saturated fat, while olive oil is less than half of that. 

African palm oil, aka macaw-fat, is the world’s most popular and most purchased vegetable oil, making up about 35 percent of the total international trade in cooking oils. The Palm oil tree has many uses and no part of the tree goes to waste. The tree is used to make world-famous palm wine and local medicines. The leaves may also be used to make thatches, often used as roofing material in certain areas.

Palm oil fruit

Palm oil fruit yields two types of oil

Palm oil fruit yields two types of oil: palm oil from the fleshy middle layer and palm kernel oil from the kernel. Palm oil is used in many of our foods, like the industrial frying of potato chips and instant noodles and in making snacks. 

There's also something called palm kernel oil, similar to coconut oil, used in sweets because it melts at a higher temperature. But palm oil isn't just for food - it's also used to make soap, cosmetics, plastic, and lubricants.

Non-food uses also include palm oil, soaps, and candles, and extensively in the tin plate industry, protecting cleaned iron surfaces before the tin is applied, as a lubricant, and in textile and rubber industries. In contrast, palm kernel oil is used to manufacture soaps and detergents, and press cake is used as livestock feed after oil extraction from the kernels.

Wet Method, the traditional method of extracting palm oil 

The village's traditional method of extracting palm oil involves washing pounded fruit mash in warm water and hand squeezing to separate fiber and nuts from the oil-water mixture using a strainer to filter the fiber from the nuts. 

The wet mixture is then put on the fire and brought to a vigorous boil. After about one or two hours, the boiled mixture is allowed to cool depending on the volume of material being boiled. 

Herbs may be added to the mixture just before reducing the heat. On cooling to around 97 degrees Fahrenheit temperature, a ladle is used to skim off the palm oil. This is called the wet method because of the large quantities of water used in washing the pulp.

Palm Wine
Making Palm Wine

Palm Wine

Commonly used in tropical Africa to produce palm wine, the African oil palm tree is legendary. Palm wine or white drink is an alcoholic beverage widely consumed in West, South, and Central Africa. For centuries, the people of Africa have tapped the sap found in palm trees and let it ferment to make a popular alcoholic beverage created from the sap of the African oil palm tree.

The amount of alcohol in wine varies depending on when it's consumed. If consumed soon after production, the wine will contain more sugar and therefore taste sweet. As fermentation continues, the wine will bubble and foam more, resulting in an increased alcohol content.

Olam Palm Gabon

Olam Palm Gabon

Olam Palm Gabon, established in 1989, is headquartered and listed in Singapore and operates palm oil mills, an edible oil refinery, and palm kernel crushing plants, sourcing fresh fruit bunches from Olam Palm Gabon plantations. 

Olam Palm Gabon has leased eight of the nine land privileges granted from the Government of Gabon for a period of 49 years, extendable for another 49 years. The ninth concession in Bindo is held under a private land title. 

Since March 2023, Olam Palm Gabon has had around 63,330 hectares of land used for palm oil plantations. They operate in nine areas spanning 202,561 hectares and have agreements to use the land. They have six plantations under their direct control: Awala, Mouila (there are three plantations), Makouke, and Ndende. Over half of the Olam Palm Gabon concessions, including forests, wetlands, and savannahs, are protected as High Conservation Value areas, around 106,000 hectares.

Olam Palm Gabon has ensured that its palm oil plantations and mills meet sustainable standards. They have received certification from the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification. The Ndende plantation also plans to receive certification by the end of 2023. The Lambarene refinery has also been certified by the food safety management standard ISO 22000 since 2020.

Ndende is a new planting developed to incorporate cooperative-established social contracts with 60 villages near the plantations. This social contract includes improving local education facilities and building houses for teachers, providing better access to healthcare through a new dispensary and houses for nurses, creating local employment, and installing hydraulic pumps to deliver fresh water.

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