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The History of Oil Palm in Malaysia

The oil palm trees, which are a very common sight nowadays, were only introduced in Malaysia, then Malaya, in the early 1870’s by the British. Originating from West Africa, this tree was first planted as an ornamental plant. It wasn’t until the year 1917 when the official commercial planting took place. In 1917, oil palm trees were planted for commercial use at the Tennamaran Estate in Selangor. This was the very first step to the plantation that we now see very abundantly.



During the early 1960s, the government of Malaysia introduced to reduce the economic dependence on rubber and tin under the agricultural diversification programme. This programme urged the producers to diversity their products and produce more of other products apart from tin and rubber. During this period, the plantation for oil palm increased drastically under the government’s programme. In the later 1960s, there were many farmers and smallholders who wanted to plant oil palm but were landless. The government then introduced land settlement schemes for these farmers and smallholders in order to encourage the plantation of oil palm while helping to eradicate poverty for the farmers and smallholders.



The plantations soon began to expand to what we could see today, making palm oil one of the biggest export products of Malaysia. Today, 4.49 million hectares of Malaysian land is used for palm oil cultivation. Malaysia produces approximately 17.73 million tonnes of palm oil and 2.13 tonnes of palm kernel oil. Being one of the largest industries in Malaysia, the oil palm plantation, cultivation and palm oil as well as palm kernel oil accounts for the employment of an estimated of one million people around our country.