Notes to broadcasters: Oil palms and palm oil

    | July 22, 2013

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    Oil palms are single-stemmed plants which can grow up to 20 metres high when mature. A young oil palm produces about 30 leaves a year. Established oil palms over 10 years old produce about 20 leaves a year. The flowers are produced in dense clusters. To read more about the oil palm, read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaeis_guineensis

    It takes five to six months for the oil palm fruit to mature after pollination. The fruit is reddish, about the size of a small orange, and grows in large bunches. Each fruit is made up of an oily, fleshy outer layer, and a single seed, also rich in oil. When ripe, each bunch of fruit weighs 40-50 kilograms.

    Palm oil is an edible product derived from the fruit of oil palms, primarily the African oil palm. It is a common cooking ingredient in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia and Brazil. For more information on the oil, go to the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm_oil.

    For more information on how to grow the crop, you can access an FAO document on modern oil palm cultivation at this link: http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/t0309e/t0309e01.htm

    The farmers in our story grow only a small number of oil palms. There is great controversy about the environmental effects of the large commercial plantations which are proliferating across the world. To read more about this subject, visit the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s website, at: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/. The UK-based Guardian newspaper has a repository of stories on its website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/palm-oil

    In this week’s story, the farmers use one of the by-products from the oil production process as fertilizer. Farm Radio Weekly published a story about how palm residues can be used in issue #225 (“Farmer puts palm residues to work,” November, 2012). Read more though this link: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/11/19/cameroon-farmer-puts-palm-residues-to-work-by-anne-mireille-nzouankeu-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-cameroon/. Notes to broadcasters on the subject can be found here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2012/11/19/notes-to-broadcasters-on-palm-residues/

    What crops are farmers in your listening area growing to fill a gap in the market? Do farmers make a better living by selling to the local market or to larger processors? Are there crops which farmers need a large company to buy to make them profitable?