Currently Malaysia is the world's largest producer of palm oil, managing to capture an impressive 60 per cent of the market. Traditionally that oil has been used in the food industry, but increasingly palm oil is being refined as an oleochemical, an increasingly important ingredient in the toiletries and cosmetics sectors.
In recent months the Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council has announced a number of initiatives concentrating on pushing oleochemicals in the Asian market. Indeed, only two months ago one of the country's leading players, Golden Hope, announced an initiative to increase exports of oleochemicals to Asia's largest market, China. However, the council has said that it now wants to extend its reach in the Asian markets and beyond.
"We anticipate that Malaysian exporters will focus more on value-added products like oleochemicals and palm-based health products. This would be in line with the trend of increasing affluence in India," Datuk Haron Siraj, chief executive officer of Malaysian Palm Oil Promotion Council, is reported to told the Malaysian News Agency, Bernama.
The non-food segment market for palm oil and its derivatives is being driven by toilet and laundry soaps, detergents and shampoo. In 2002 production topped 1.73 million tones, a figure that is expected to grow significantly in the course of the next few years.
To date production of oleochemicals in Malaysia has captured approximately 17 per cent of the global market, making it one of the world's leading suppliers. Basic olechemicals include fatty acids, fatty alcohols and fatty esters and derivatives include soap noodles, stereates, oleates, amides and sulphates. From these ingredients shampoos and conditioners, hair care products and soaps are just a few of the cosmetics that are formulated.