China’s Palm Oil Development Since 1926: Limited Production Growth

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China's Palm Oil Development Since 1926: Limited Production Growth. Photo by:

PALMOILMAGAZINE, JAKARTA – According to an article by Jiang Yifan on Chinadialogue, China has made significant efforts over the past few decades to develop palm oil plantations to increase its own vegetable oil production, including for biofuel materials.

Recently in Hainan, a scientific team, which has been working for over two decades, developed a palm oil variety suitable for cultivation in China, set to be implemented in commercial plantations soon.

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Jiang Yifan noted that China’s first small-scale palm oil planting began in 1926 by Chinese expatriates. They imported seeds from Southeast Asia and started planting in Hainan due to its tropical climate. Palm oil cultivation in Hainan experienced two major development phases, the first in the 1950s and 1960s, during a period of national vegetable oil shortages.

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Chief of Palm Oil Development Group at Rubber Research Institute from Tropical Agriculture Academy China, Zeng Xianhai said, the country spent 100 million yuan to get palm oil seed imports and planted in many regions, such as, Yunnan. At the time, it was equal to annual gross domestic product in some small town by the late of 1950s. In 1965, palm oil plantations were developing for about 43.300 hectares and 41.300 hectares were in Hainan.

Zeng Xianhai said, the imported palm oil seeds were in low quality, the fruit had thick shell or known as dura (one type of palm oil seeds).

Because of lack of cultivation knowledge, palm oil production was not increasing. In 1950s and 1980s, every ‘mu’ or 1/15 hectares or 666 meters square could produce 20 or 30 kg of crude palm oil (CPO). But now, the main producer country in Southeast Asia could produce 270 kg CPO in the same ‘mu’ or width.

In 1970s, every house in China was in charge to what farmers (smallholders) would be about to plant. In fact, they chose to plant rubber, pepper, and mango while they mostly did not like to plant palm oil.

Palm oil planting for the second period started in the early of 1980s when a Singaporean company did partnership with state plantation company in Chengmai, Hainan. They started developing palm oil plantations for about 2.660 hectares within more productive seeds – known as tenera. Unfortunately, the cultivation did go well because of bad management and narrow areas which did not fit the economic scale. (T2)

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