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Oil palm with African woman

All of a sudden, Virgin Red Palm Oil is getting alot of attention in global markets for its outstanding health benefits and culinary excellence. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is native to West Africa, but is widely cultivated in Latin America and Southeast Asia.  Virgin Red Palm Oil is gently extracted from the fleshy mesocarp of the palm fruit which surrounds the kernel, from which palm kernel oil is extracted.  Red Palm Oil is a staple ingredient in West African cooking, while palm kernal oil is more often used to make soap, or for biofuels.  For the record, palm sauce is my absolute favorite when I go to Africa.  It’s great with porrige, with beans and rice, and with fried plaintains.  Yum!  It also imparts a beautiful reddish, golden hue to many dishes.

Oil Palm Fruit

Palm Oil Nutrition

The two main phytonutrients concentrated from red palm oil and available as commercial extracts in the market are tocotrienols and carotenes complex. The deep orange red color of red palm oil is contributed by natural pigments called carotenoids.  Red palm oil is a natural plant source of carotenes in terms of retinol (vitamin A) equivalents, providing 7,000 retinol equivalents (RE) per 100 grams. This is about 17 times as much beta-carotene as carrots.  Palm oil contains the highest alpha-carotene level among all the plant sources. The primary forms of carotenoids in red palm oil are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene.  Research has shown consumption of red palm oil significantly enhanced vitamin A levels in humans, and it is beneficial in preventing vitamin A deficiency.  Vitamin A deficiency may lead to blindness, skin disease and weakened immune function.

Virgin Red Palm Oil

Tocotrienols are members of the vitamin E family. In the body, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that protects lipid from peroxidation and help quench free radicals.  Research shows tocotrienols are beneficial to consumers who want to maintain healthy brain (neuroprotection), blood lipid levels, arterial compliance (by reducing arterial stiffness), liver health, skin nutrition and immune protection.

The market is moving towards taking what nature produces – as a wholesome complex of ingredients, naturally found in our diet as opposed to a single ingredient formulation. Therefore, it is important to use what nature produces – as the combination of nutrients naturally found in red palm oil work synergistically to confer the optimum functionality and health benefits. Dr. Mehmet Oz in his recent TV program, where he called it his most miraculous find in 2013 to address the aging process. (Natural Products Insider)

Palm Oil Sustainability

There is good reason to be suspicious about the sustainability of Palm Oil.  Particularly in parts of Southeast Asia, virgin forest is wiped out for huge, industrial palm plantations.  This seriously exacerbates climate change, and threatens biodiversity.  Much habitat for endangered orangutans is being wiped out.

These industrial plantations also have very negative socio-economic effects on people.  A notable example is in Liberia, where rural villagers’ land is being expropriated for palm plantations by corporations and their government minions.

In parts of West Africa, much effort is being made to preserve and promote traditional, sustainable production of palm oil.  Being native to the region, oil palms are traditionally grown in small polyculture plantations with other food crops such as cassava, beans and corn.  The residue from pressing the fruits is often mulched back in the plantations as organic fertilizer, and is also made into cakes for use as sustainable cooking fuel.  Palm Oil production is traditionally the work of women, yielding badly needed income for poor rural families.  New (non-GMO) varieties are higher-yielding, easily harvested, quick-maturing and disease and pest-resistant, all promoting socio-economic well-being and environmental stewardship.


Rountable Sustainable Palm Oil

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was established in 2004 to promote the production and use of Sustainable Palm Oil for people, planet and prosperity.  It establishes a set of criteria to ensure environmental and social standards in response to the exploitive practices of industrial production.  The reach of its certifications is growing rapidly.  So far, only Ivory Coast in Africa has fallen under this reach, but that is soon to change!

African Palm Oil Conference

Starting tomorrow, June 11, 2013, the first African Palm Oil Congress will convene for three days in Abidjian, Ivory Coast.  More than 800 producers, experts, government officials and supply chain representitives will be in attendance at this groundbreaking event.  Topics such as phytonutrients, varieties, cultivation, marketing, environmental and social standards and certification will be presented and discussed.  ATACORA ESSENTIAL is very proud to be represented at the congress by Beninese Palm Oil expert Alassane Rhylwann.

Atacora Virgin Red Palm Oil

Alassane Rhylwann

Mr. Rhylwann has many years experience in the Beninese Palm Oil industry, as well as sustainable community development.  We at Atacora and Rhylwann share the values of environmental sustainability, trade based development and women’s empowerment.  He is deeply connected to more than 100 small-holder palm producers who employ at least 80% women at Fair Trade wages.  We have become very close collaborators, and are teaming up with Duerst-Lahti Global to offer bulk sourcing of the finest quality, sustainable Palm Oil in the world.  Rhylwann is truly a Godsend!  We are great business partners and have become great friends.  He even named his newborn twins after me and my mother!  Our first shipping container is on the high seas as I am writing!  We can offer nearly unlimited, year-round supply, and ship globally.  While we have already begun bulk supply, Atacora will soon be offering retail packages and smaller scale bulk deliveries to our customers!  Stay tuned!

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