PUTRAJAYA: The palm-based bioactives sector is set to be the future of palm oil downstream activities, given the ever-growing demand for such products from health conscious consumers.
Relatively new in Malaysia, the bioactives sector holds the potential to further boost the economy and companies should explore its possibilities, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong.
Bioactive compounds are found in small amounts in plants and certain foods that may promote good health. They are being studied in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.
Mah said that with increasing global consumer awareness, particularly on healthy eating and lifestyles, there is a surge in the demand for health foods and supplements.
The global nutraceutical products market was valued at about US$205.39bil (RM883.18bil) last year and is expected to reach US$294.79bil (RM1.26 trillion) by 2022.
“We hope to see local companies explore this sector and tap its potential,” he told reporters after opening the Palm International Nutra-Cosmeceutical conference.
Mah said that in the food and health supplement industry, the potential lies in palm carotene, vitamin E tocotrienols and polyphenol, adding that another area to be looked into is the production of animal feed that contains added-value products.
Malaysia, he said, is slowly emerging in these sectors through extracts from palm oil and one example is the annual production of about 50,000kg of palm vitamin E tocotrienols, valued at US$16mil (RM70mil).
The minister said the sector can also play a significant role in the cosmetics and personal care industry due to its powerful antioxidant capacity and anti-ageing properties.
Mah said the conference, which attracted 25 presentations from foreign and local researchers, served as an opportunity for experts to share their scientific findings on the benefits of palm oil with consumers, amid continuous negative perception of the commodity.
With the industry’s significant contribution to economic development and foreign exchange earnings, he said it is important that Malaysia – which accounts for 33% of the world’s palm oil production and 39% of total palm oil exports – counter such allegations through scientific evidence.