Smart agriculture the way forward for improved productivity

The sector is more resistant to CPO price fluctuation as Malaysia is moving into mid and downstream expansions

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

SMART agriculture is the future for Malaysian oil palm plantation via the adoption of new technology to provide a solid foundation for precision agriculture to increase productivity.

Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) desk officer for Europe region Rafizah Mazlan said this sector is more resistant to crude palm oil (CPO) price fluctuation as Malaysia is moving into mid and downstream expansions.

She said Malaysia needs to realise the aspiration to be a regional food hub with higher productivity and diversification to the downstream sector.

“We can also do it by enhancing renewable energy utilisation by promoting palm-based biomass production and shifting from petrochemical to biochemical based through value addition of palm oil products.

“Development of high skilled human capital, who are well trained with Internet of Things to improve productivity, is part of smart agriculture,” she said in an advocacy talk titled Sustainability and Food Safety: The Perspective of the Malaysian Oil Palm Industry held virtually yesterday.

The world’s population is expected to increase by two billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to the latest United Nations’ (UN) report.

Rafizah said, logically, with more people we need more food and palm oil is one of the sources.

She believes the palm oil industry needs to be protected, not just by the producing countries but also the importing countries.

“Malaysia needs the European Union (EU) to support bilateral trade between Malaysia and the EU by procuring Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil certified palm oil where smallholders contribute almost 40% of oil palm cultivation in Malaysia.

“This will enhance the livelihood of the smallholders, and at the same time, adhering to the first goal of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in eradicating poverty,” she added.

With the projected rise in the global consumption of oils to feed the growing world population, palm oil is expected to contribute to the growth in the consumption of vegetable oils.

This is particularly so in view of increasing consumers’ acceptance of the oil because of its guaranteed quality and safety, versatility in applications, functionality and nutritional benefits.

MPOB head of analytical and quality development unit Dr Azmil Haizam Ahmad Tarmizi said 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3-MCPDE) and glycidyl esters are among the food safety issues with a round exposure to health risks.

Based on MPOB pilot trials, he said washing of CPO can reduce the formation of 3-MCPDE.

“We also found out that high deodorisation temperature led to high formation of 3-MCPDE. Acid degumming, followed by bleaching, causes formation of 3-MCPDE in bleached oil.

“MPOB is currently establishing the method to harmonise the mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons and the mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons,” he concluded.