Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) was first introduced to Malaysia as an ornamental plant in 1870. Since 1960, planted area had increased at a rapid pace. In 1985, 1.5 million hectares were planted with palm tree, and it had increased to 4.3 million hectares in 2007. It has become the most important commodity crop in Malaysia. As of 2011, the total planted area was 4.917 million hectares. [ source : Official Palm Oil Information ]
Human use of oil palms may date as far back as 5,000 years; in the late 1800s, archaeologists discovered a substance that they concluded was originally palm oil in a tomb at Abydos dating back to 3,000 BCE. It is believed that Arab traders brought the oil palm to Egypt. Palm oil from Elaeis guineensis has long been recognized in West and Central African countries, and is widely used as a cooking oil. European merchants trading with West Africa occasionally purchased palm oil for use as a cooking oil in Europe. Palm oil became a highly sought-after commodity by British traders, for use as an industrial lubricant for machinery during Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
Palm oil formed the basis of soap products, such as Lever Brothers’ (now Unilever) “Sunlight” soap, and the American Palmolive brand. By around 1870, palm oil constituted the primary export of some West African countries such as Ghana andNigeria although this was overtaken by cocoa in the 1880s. [ Source : Wikipedia ]