Palm oil has now become the second most important vegetable oil after soybean oil in the world's oils and fats market. The dynamic growth of the palm-oil industry in Malaysia began around 1970. The pace of growth, in fact, has been so rapid that palm oil has now overtaken soybean oil and rapeseed oil as the growth leader. The oil palm is planted commercially in more than a dozen countries around the world, in West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, China, and Papua New Guinea. However, the Southeast Asian nations of Malaysia and Indonesia are the major palm-oil-producing countries and between them account for about 80% of the world's palm-oil production. The overwhelming importance of Malaysia in world palm-oil exports can be seen from the fact that in 1989 it exported nearly 6 million tons and produced about 58% of the world palm-oil output (1,2).

Figure 2. Oil palm fruits and sections showing the oil-bearing mesocarp and the endocarp (kernel).

Figure 1. The oil palm bearing fruit bunches.

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