According the Ministry of Health, exports of palm-based pharmaceuticals totaled more than RM600 million in 2011, buoyed in part by ongoing research into the nutritional benefits of palm oil and its by-products. “Malaysia produces medicinal products, like pain killers, vitamin C, anti-oxidants,” Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.
These efforts reflect a coordinated approach to maintaining the value and resilience of Malaysia’s palm oil sector. As palm oil producers, both large and small, pursue practices to increase efficiency and yields, they are contributing to the development of new and innovative sectors that are looking to harness growing demand for low-cost, renewable food and consumer goods. This is good news for global consumers, both rich and poor, that rely on palm oil as a nutritious and abundant food source – greater investment in palm oil will reduce food prices and lead to the introduction of new, innovative products to improve the lives and health of consumers throughout the world.
And this is incredible news for a variety of downstream industries that are beginning to harness the array of applications for palm oil and oil palm by-products. From biomass based energy to nutritional supplements and high-end furniture, oil palm cultivation has the potential to provide natural, sustainable and low-cost products the world over. The pharmaceutical industry is just one of many such sectors that are looking to the palm oil industry for new products.
Recent research into the use of palm oil in the production of bio-plastics to compliment petroleum based plastic polymers have recently proven successful – paving the way for more products to be produced with renewable sources. A team headed by Siemens researchers in Germany have discovered a formula combining starch, palm oil and carbon dioxide to produce a plastic polymer long reliant on petroleum based chemicals.
And Emery Oleochemicals, a Malaysian bio-chemical company, is investing more than €20 million (US$ 25 million) in a site for the production of bio-plastic additives in Germany. The company has years of expertise in producing biobased additives Loxiol and Edenol from palm oil. Loxiol can be used as a release agent, or in anti-blocking and anti-fogging functions, while Edenol is primarily a plasticizer used to soften rubber.
As the world becomes wealthier and developing world consumers achieve the level of prosperity long enjoyed in the West, such developments are an important step in achieving the goal of sustainable global consumption. Increasing reliance on sustainable, renewable goods will not only help Malaysian palm oil producers and downstream industries prosper, and will go further to meeting the growing demand for these environmentally friendly, low-cost sustainable products.