In 2017, the Malaysian palm oil industry celebrates its 100th anniversary. As this article in The Star Online confirms, this is an accomplishment worth celebrating. The industry has grown substantially from its humble beginning and is now the country’s most important commodity. This “golden crop” contributes significantly to Malaysia’s economy. It has been credited with reducing poverty and contributing to Malaysia’s environment.

In the article, Star Executive Editor Errol Oh reported that oil palm was first commercially planted by a French man, Henri Fauconnier, at the Tennamaram Estate in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor. Fauconnier later became an award-winning writer best known for his books set in Malaysia. Oil palm plantations flourished for decades, most often taking over plantations that grew less environmentally friendly rubber which was then Malaysia’s dominant cash crop.

Oh wrote: “The pivot from rubber to oil palm is a fascinating tale of threat transformed into opportunity, of adaptability paving the way for prosperity. The transition to oil palm was also boosted by the drive to lift the fortunes of the rural poor through the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda). With more and more settlers on the Felda schemes cultivating oil palm, it surpassed rubber in 1989 as Malaysia’s main economic crop.”

Today, Malaysia is a trusted worldwide supplier of sustainable palm oil, producing 35 percent of the world’s palm oil.

Oh encouraged celebrating Malaysia’s palm oil industry by highlighting industry developments over the past 100 years, as well as showcasing the contributions of palm oil pioneers and leaders. He added: “A 100-year journey surely has its share of wrong turns and casualties, and these should not be swept under the carpet. Sometimes we learn more from failure than from success.”  He concluded: “The answers to a brighter future may well lie in the past. To search, we must first illuminate history.”

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