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Malaysian Palm Oil Board: Fuelling Malaysia’s Economy

As one of the world’s largest palm oil exporters, Malaysia leads the way in refining and processing palm oil to meet the growing needs of the population. As of 2020, Malaysia accounted for 25.8% of the world’s palm oil production, and 34% of its exports respectively. The refining of crude palm oil goes back over 50 years as a response to the government’s initial call for increased industrialization in Malaysia, and so the emergence of refineries allowed for a wide range of processed palm oil products to be produced across the country. Therefore, the palm oil industry plays a crucial role in the Malaysian economy, and so the Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) was established to enhance the well-being of the growing industry and provide continued development, research, and services across the palm oil refining process.  

Established in 2000, MPOB is a government agency entrusted to serve the country’s palm oil industry. Their role is to help promote and develop national objectives, policies, and priorities towards the success of the Malaysian palm oil Industry. MPOB was created following a merger of the Palm Oil Research Institute of Malaysia (PORIM) and the Palm Oil Registration and Licensing Authority (PORLA), to create a combined board which would render the services more effective, whilst offering better focus on the role of palm oil in national and international markets. MPOB’s vision is to become a Nobel Laureate-producing research and development institution which aims to provide leadership and development towards a highly diversified, value-added, globally competitive, and sustainable palm oil industry.  

MPOB plans on enhancing the well-being of the Malaysian palm oil industry by focusing on how technology, plantation management practices and integrated farming initiatives can be implemented to develop the industry and increase the income of palm oil producers in the country. Currently, there are two types of oil produced from oil palm trees, one from the flesh of the fruit and the other from the seed/kernel. These oils undergo several processing and filtering operations to produce the finished oils to meet the requirements of the industry. However, in an industry such as palm oil processing, there are often concerns over sustainability, so MPOB is implementing research and development facilities which focus on enriching the local communities in which it operates, whilst working towards environmental conservation goals. Furthermore, MPOB focuses a considerable amount of its operation on research and development; whether this be to provide key information on the global industry, to develop sustainability initiatives, to work with national and international organisations, or to implement high-standard training programmes all to ensure the continued development of the palm oil industry.  

As part of the continued research efforts, MPOB has recently announced that it is doing research to understand how to better modify crops and the role genetic modification could play in the future of Malaysia’s palm oil industry. MPOB announced that the current production of palm oil in Malaysia is not derived from any kind of genetically modified mechanism, however, its Biology and Sustainability Research Division is looking into it. The use of genetically modified crops could help increase crop yield and palm oil production which would provide benefits down the supply chains, as the crop would theoretically be able to produce much higher quantities of palm oil per hectare. However, public reception to genetic modification is not always favourable. Instead, genome editing is more widely accepted as proven by the public reception of the soybean. Ultimately, If genetic modification or genome editing is found to be possible and effective, it could have significant impacts on the future of palm oil production across not just Malaysia, but the globe.  

Overall, the palm oil industry in Malaysia is vast as it leads the way as one of the most crucial exporters of palm oil worldwide. MPOB’s research provides crucial development to the industry as it grapples to keep up with the demand for palm oil in a variety of markets from cooking to cosmetics or even in biofuel. MPOB has spent the last 20 years successfully building the industry towards a strong and secure future, that focuses on research and development to maintain palm oil production in line with its growing demand. Consequently, MPOB continues to find solutions to ensure that the production of palm oil has the most effective output, whilst working to promote the protection of the environment throughout its operations.