PALM OIL 6
Palm oil cultivation is one of the cash crop farming practiced inNigeria. A variety of palms are available that favours both warmweather and cold weather. Warm weathered palms include Florida Royalpalm, Sango palms, Queen Palm and Canary Island Sate palm. Coldweathered are the cabbage palm, Chinese Windmill and Mexican fan.Often, a good land that is motorable is selected and tractors used toloosen the soil, crack big stones to bits and level the ground(Corley & Tinker, 2003).The hard rocks are then removed but before this land preparationprocess, a nursery for raising palm seedlings is first established.
Clear the forest and employ people to dig up the tree stumps. Use tractor to cultivate the land as it well loosens the soil and breaks the huge soil particles to bits. Also the tractor levels the ground well (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
Establish a palm nursery for growing of seedlings. Get good quality seeds from Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research or other recommended places. Seeds are kept in very hot rooms with high temperatures and start germinating after three months.
The seedlings are then plated in small plastic bags and every month a new leaf grows. After 4-5 months after appearance of bifid leaf, they are transplanted in the nursery. They stay here for a year and when they have 15 green leaves they are transferred to the field where they are planted in dung hole. This is done during rainy season (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
Proper spacing is necessary as well as Cover crop which acts to preserve the moisture content of the soil.
Fertilization is done after 6-8 months of planting to boost the soil PH as well as accelerate the growth of palm trees.
Male flowers are produced at the base of each leaf. Several months later, female flowers appear and fertilization takes place. Cluster of fruits then starts to form.
The oil palm has no branches but rather a truck and leaves. The truck is the stem and at its tip there is a bud which is the growing point. It takes a period of 5-6 months from flowering to harvest the fruit. The bunch contains 1000- 4000 fruits and weighs approximately 25kgs (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
The fruits are ready three years from the time of planting and the palm tree continues to be productive for as long as 20-30 years(Corley & Tinker, 2003).. Fruits vary in size depending on the species grown and are harvested by hand using harvesting tools .
Sterilization- The bunch aresubjected to hot temperatures and cooked with steam for about twohours to inactivate the enzymes, make it easier for fruits to bereleased from the bunch, make them soft and make the nut separateeasily (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
Threshing- The bunch is put in thethresher and fruits are separated. Wastes are drove to incineratorand ash used in compost as source of potassium.
Digestion – The oily cells are broken down to release palm oil.This is often done by use of elevators at a temperature of about90-100oc (Corley &Tinker, 2003). Pressing-After the materials leaves the digestion vessel, pressing is done andproduces oil, water, solid and cake consisting of fiber and nuts. Wetor dry processing can be used.
Clarification, purification and packaging – Here, oil isseparated from impurities by making the content settle in a tank anddecanters. The oil is purified in centrifuged plates and dried undervacuum, then filtered to remove any particles and later packed indrums ready for sale (Corley &Tinker, 2003).Uses ofpalm oil
Palm oil is used as a raw materialin industries for the manufacture of soaps, candles, waxeslubricants, ink, cosmetics as well as toothpaste and cooking oil(Corley & Tinker, 2003). Fatty acid from palm oil is used in theproduction of pharmaceutical products, as well as water-treatmentproducts.
Nutritional value and healthbenefits
Palm oil is used in prevention ofmalnutrition and vitamin deficiency diseases like lack of vitamin A. It used as medicine for treatment of malaria, high blood pressure,elimination of high cholesterol, used for weight loss as well ascyanide poisoning. It helps in supplying fatty acids important forgrowth and development (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
The growth of palm oil has helpedin the elevation of poverty to Nigerians through wealth creation. Themilling industry offers employment opportunities to majority of thepeople and also the farming activity is a source of income afterharvesting and selling the fruits. It has led to sustainable growthand development of the country as well as increased the world tradebusiness of palm oil (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
Thehigh returns have led to increased investments as the oil is veryefficient and there has been an increased demand in the world marketfor the product. Palm oil has led to generation of local businessopportunities as well as creation of cooperatives where farmers caneasily sale their produce.
The activity of palm oilcultivation has yielded great benefits to the people of Nigeria as itha s led to the improvement of infrastructure such as roads. Thegovernment can get revenue through selling the oil to outsidecountries. There has been an improvement in the schooling system asgood schools have been created (Corley & Tinker, 2003). Thehealth care sector has also improved as hospitals have been built tocater for health concerns of citizens.
To start the business, you needto have considerable capital and a manageable size of land. Palmseedlings are expensive and raising them individually need patienceas they take a long time to fully reach maturity. This period willrequire heavy investments on labour, fertilizer and seedlings so youshould be sure that you will manage all these expenses. Goodknowledge of palm oil cultivation is required. Partnering withcooperatives that can give financial support is also necessary if youare to start the business (Corley & Tinker, 2003).
Corley, R.H.V & Tinker, D.B(2003). The Oil Palm,Blackwell Science Ltd.,Oxford,4thed. (Monograph of growth botany and use of oil palm)