This study evaluated the influence of upstream inputs into the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) primary productivity products, termed the MOD17, at tropical oil palm plantations (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.). Evaluation of MOD17 using oil palm plantations as test sites is ideal because the plantations are cultivated on large areas which are comparable with the size of MODIS pixels. It is difficult to find test sites covered by other single species in a whole pixel. The upstream inputs studied included (1) MODIS land cover, (2) the National Centers for Environmental Prediction-Department of Energy (NCEP-DOE) Reanalysis 2 meteorological data set, (3) MODIS leaf area index/fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (LAI/fPAR), and (4) MODIS maximum light-use efficiency (maximum LUE). Oil palm biometric and local meteorological data were utilized as ground data. Furthermore, scaling up oil palm LAI and fPAR from plot scale to regional scale (Peninsular Malaysia) was done empirically by correlating oil palm LAI derived from the hemispherical photography technique with radiance information from the Disaster Monitoring Constellation 2 satellite (UK-DMC 2). The upscaled LAI/fPAR developed in this study was used to evaluate the MODIS LAI/fPAR. The results showed that the MODIS land-cover product has an overall accuracy of 78.8% when compared to the Peninsular Malaysia land-use map produced by the Department of Agriculture, Malaysia. Regarding the NCEP-DOE Reanalysis 2 data set, vapour pressure deficit (VPD) and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) contain large uncertainties in our study area. However, MODIS LAI and fPAR were correlated relatively well with the upscaled LAI (R = 0.50) and the upscaled fPAR (R = 0.60), respectively. The constant values of maximum LUE for croplands and evergreen broadleaf forest ecosystems are lower than the maximum LUE of oil palm. The relative predictive error assessment showed that the MOD17 net primary productivity (NPP) overestimated oil palm NPP derived from biometric methods by 142-204%. We replaced the upstream inputs of MOD17 by the local inputs for estimating oil palm GPP and NPP in Peninsular Malaysia. This was done by (1) assigning maximum LUE for oil palm plantations as a constant at 1.68 g C m day, (2) utilizing meteorological data from local meteorological stations, and (3) using the upscaled fPAR of oil palm plantations. The amount of oil palm GPP and NPP for Peninsular Malaysia in 2010 were estimated to be ~0.09 Pg C year (or equivalent to ~0.33 Pg CO year) and ~0.03 Pg C year (~0.11 Pg CO year), respectively, indicating that oil palm plantations in Peninsular Malaysia can play an important role in global carbon sequestration. In the future there is likely to be a demand for MODIS GPP and NPP products that are more accurate than those currently generated by MOD17. We recommend future developments of the MOD17 processing system to allow improvements in the upstream input parameters, in the manner described in this article, both for global processing and for the production of more accurate values for GPP and NPP at regional and local scales.