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Various techniques may be used to process palm oil fruits for edible oil, which may be grouped into four categories according to throughput and degree of complexity of the unit operational machinery: traditional methods, small-scale mechanical units, medium-scale mills and large industrial mills. Generally, processing units handling up to 2 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches per hour are considered to be small-scale, while large-scale mills are able to process more than 10 tonnes per hour.

While there is considerable literature concerning traditional technologies and medium- and large-scale mills, information on small-scale processing units is scarce. The current demand for small-scale oil mills is shifting from the present simple machine-assisted equipment to equipment that is more integrated, but still simple in design and easy to operate and maintain.

The FAO has been motivated to undertake this publication, which is the first on palm oil processing in the Agricultural Services Bulletin Series. This bulletin reviews the various processing technologies and machinery that can be used for the extraction of palm oil and palm kernel oil, and provides information on several suppliers of equipment in Africa.

It is hoped that this document will contribute to the improvement of the yield and quality of palm oil and to the modernisation of small-scale palm oil mills in Africa.

Geoffrey Mrema,
Agricultural Support Systems Division (AGS)

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