Good Operations Of Palm Oil Mills Can Mitigate 3MCPD

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) has been continually urging the oil palm planters to improve their operations of palm oil mills, which are necessary to maintain the sustainability and safety of palm oil for human consumption. The latest such call was made by speakers of a webinar (Ngobrol Bareng GAPKI Session 6) on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of palm oil mills organized by Gapki on Tuesday.

“Many growers see the palm oil mills as less important and they only focus on oil palm plantations. But for the sake sustainability of food safety, the palm oil mills are equally important to get special attention and improvement,” Gapki Chairman Joko Supriyono said when opening the webinar, which was moderated by Gapki Executive Director Mukti Sardjono and closed by Gapki Deputy Chairman Togar Sitanggang.

Muhammad Ansori Nasution, one of the three speakers, who is a researcher of the Palm Oil Research Center (PPKS), said that the most important issues that should deserve special attention in operating palm oil mills are concerned with prevention of palm oil losses and contaminants. “There are many factors causing the losses in palm oil mills. The losses are not only factored in the palm oil mills, but also during the process before the palm fruits arrive at the mills. The quality of palm fruits determines the extraction rate and losses in the palm oil mills. The quality is determined by condition of fruits whether they are ripe or not, or decomposed or damaged during transportation. But the losses should be allowed at only 1.6 – 1.65 percent,” he said.

According to him, the resulted contaminants in palm oil are determined by the quality of palm fruits, whether they are decomposed or damaged or contained chloride, which becomes precursor that causes the contaminants. All such conditions will form the contaminants, such as the 3-MCPD (3-monochloropropanediol) esters, during the refining process, mainly during deodorization and bleaching in the palm oil mills.

“If we can ensure the quality of our palm fruits before processing we can reduce the losses and the contaminants,” he said, while reminding the growers about the plan of the European Union (EU) to set the content of 3-MCPD in palm oil at 2.5 ppm, probably starting from next year.

Although only tested on animals, the 3-MCPD esters are suspected to be carcinogenic.  Besides in palm oil, the 3MCPD contaminant is also found in other vegetable oils, which include soybean, rapeseed and sunflower.

He said that to reduce the contaminants, the palm fruits should be cleaned by using clean water which is free from chloride and saline. But, of course, efforts should also be pursued to reduce the chloride content through good practice of cultivation in the plantations.

Rediman Silalahi, the second speaker during the webinar, who is a production consultant with the state-owned plantation company PT Perkebunan Nusantara V, underlined the importance of improving the quality of human resources in operating the palm oil mills and in maintaining good communication between the palm oil mills’ operators and the oil palm plantations’ management. “The management of palm oil mills should always bear in their mind about the importance of maintaining sustainability principles, which are based on 3P, namely planet, people and profit,” he said.

Rediman noted that practicing a good communication between palm oil mills and the plantations will also help ensure the quality and productivity of the palm oils, which will in turn reduce the potential losses and contaminants of palm oil.

PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk Vice President in charge of engineering department, Muhammad Ichsan, the third speaker in the webinar, talked about the possibility of innovations and breakthroughs that could be pursued by palm oil mills’ operators and plantations growers to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their palm oil mills.

“The innovations and breakthroughs can be taken from those small steps such as using carbon to absorb chloride, ensuring good treatment of palm fruits before processing, up to the application of automation and high technologies in the palm oil mills. But before applying the high-tech, we have to discuss it thoroughly and rigorously with the principals of the high-tech products and other people in the know of the high-tech to ensure that it will be the right application for our palm oil mills,” he concluded. (*)