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Oil palms belong to the palm family (bot.: Palmae or Arecaceae). Within the family of palms 225 genera and far more than 2000 species exist. Only very few of those can be used for the cultivation of vegetables, palm sugar or oil (See also: palm kernel oil and palm oil).

Oil palms are native in west Africa but were brought to Malaysia during colonial times, where they have great economical importance today.

Oil palms can grow up to 30 meters tall and have a single slender trunk and about 30 pinnate leaves. The first fruit clusters develop in the third year. They grow in the leaf axle and become up to 70 cm long and 50 cm wide. With up to 2000 fruits of the size of plums these fruit clusters can weigh 50 kg. For fruit clusters of this size oil palms need a perfect climate. The temperature of the air has to be 26°C on average and the soil has to be deep and rich in nutrients.

Fruit clusters are harvested with a long bamboo pole with a sickle-shaped knife at the end. The sickle is put around the stem of the fruit cluster and cut with a strong pull downwards.

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