Before palm oil, there was coconut oil...

loading A coconut estate in Penang in the 1890s.

Foreign markets and imported technology fuelled the copra and coconut oil industry in Penang, making it the third biggest money earner for decades. What this tells us at a time when we need to diversify Penang’s economy is that agribusiness has a future.

WHEN PENANG WAS occupied by the British, it was intended not only to serve as a trading port but also as land for the cultivation of commercial crops such as peppers, nutmegs, cloves, sugarcanes and coconuts. Of these, coconuts turned out to be the only crop successfully cultivated on a large scale on the island, contributing considerably to the economy for almost one century. Why and how did coconuts become such as an important commercial crop in Penang?

Penang planters were the driving force for the growth of the coconut industry. The mid-19th century witnessed an unprecedented expansion of coconut estates in Penang.

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