If you have ever driven along a major highway in Malaysia, you may have seen stumpy, fan-like trees planted in neat rows beside the road. If you have flown into Kuala Lumpur by plane, you would have got a bird’s-eye view of these neat plantations surrounding the airport.
These are oil palm plantations. The oil palm is cultivated for its small red fruit that grow in heavy bunches near the base of the fan-shaped leaves. Workers chop these bunches off the trees and load them on carts or lorries to be sent to factories. There, the fruit are cooked and squeezed. The red oil that comes out is called palm oil.
Palm oil is a very important oil. It is the most popular vegetable oil in the world today. In fact, if you go to a supermarket, most of the processed food that you see on the shelves will have palm oil in them. Palm oil is popular for frying and also as an ingredient in many recipes. It can also be used to make soap and other cleaning products. It is used in makeup and body lotions as well.
The oil palm is a tropical plant. It can only grow in places with a lot of sunlight and rain. Actually, it was first grown in Africa. However, today, most of the world’s oil palm is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia.
These countries have become quite rich by selling their palm oil to the world. Many giant companies have large oil palm plantations all over Malaysia and Indonesia. Some poor people living outside the cities have also started growing oil palm in the forests around their homes. Thanks to the high price of palm oil, these people are not so poor anymore.
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