Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian was the guest speaker at the Perak Academy’s 10th Anniversary Perak Lecture series held at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel recently. The talk was a continuation of a seminar cum exhibition on investment opportunities in oil palm-based technologies held at the same venue earlier in the day. The 250-odd audience consisted of the crème de la crème of Ipoh society led by Datuk Dr Abdullah Fadzil Che Wan.
Being a prime mover in the palm oil industry, as expected, the talk by the CEO of KLK Berhad, revolved around the product, a subject close to his heart. The palm oil industry, according to Tan Sri Lee, contributes heavily to the Malaysian economy. “We’re currently one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of palm oil and its products, next only to our neighbour, Indonesia.” The trend, he insisted, is changing as South America is slowly catching up with the rest.
“Palm oil,” said Lee, “is a very volatile industry, as it faces many challenges and threats. The scarcity of land and labour, which the industry is heavily dependent upon, has affected its growth to a certain extent.”
He theorised that the rising cost of production, as a result of these threats, prompt industrial players in Malaysia to look to Indonesia for their expansion programmes. To counter the rising cost of production the country is looking into ways of enhancing yield through use of better planting materials, improving plantation management skills and mechanisation. “Unfortunately, the local universities are not churning out suitable graduates to replace the present lot of managers,” Lee lamented.
The claim by Western pundits that palm oil consumption is linked to clogged arteries leading to cardiovascular disease has been proven unfounded. Refined palm oil is rich in tocotrienols and tocopherols which contain high levels of Vitamin E. Tocotrienols reduce the cholesterol level in the body, as well as inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Touching on the usefulness of palm oil, Lee alluded to the numerous downstream products which have their origins in the plant. “Even the fronds and husk can be used for the production of biogas and biodiesel, among others.” This conclusion brought the talk to a close.