Firm Stand to Boost Palm Oil Productivity

THE RM297mil grant allocated under Budget 2011 to encourage the

replanting of old palm trees reflects the strong concern by the

Government over the stagnating palm oil yields within the plantation

sector over the past two decades.

Malaysia currently has some

365,000ha of oil palm land above 25 years of age, which many industry

observers blame for putting a lid for strong yields within the sector.

Therefore, the greatest challenge for plantation players would be to improve oil palm tree productivity per unit land area.

This

will help ensure the continued increase in the national crude palm oil

(CPO) production, which will help meet increasing world demand for the

world’s most tradeable vegetable oil.

Since Malaysia no longer

has the luxury of land for expansion or planting, the best alternative

would be an in-situ improvement of oil yield per hectare, which has been

stagnating at around four tonnes per hectare.

At the same time,

it is necessary to put in measures to increase the breeding and supply

of high-yielding planting materials. This points to the need for a

national replanting policy to encourage replanting with high-yielding

clones.

While the RM297mil grant for replanting may seem positive

as it would boost the domestic palm trees age profile in the future,

some were doubtful over the rapid acceleration of replanting especially

with the current bullish CPO pricetrading at about RM2,900 per tonne,

its highest level so far this year.

Industry observers said

smallholders, which represent 52% of the country’s total palm oil

production, would be reluctant to cut down their aging palm trees and

undertake replanting with high quality new clones.

In 2008, when

the Government provided a replanting subsidy of RM1,000 per hectare, the

country only achieved 31%, or 139,000ha, out of its earlier replanting

target of 200,000ha.

More recently, Malaysian Palm Oil Board

director-general Datuk Mohd Basri Wahid had said that the country “may”

only be able to replant some 80,000ha of oil palm this year.

At the same time, many are questioning on how the replanting fund would be distributed between the estates and smallholders.

According

to a veteran oil palm planter, the need for a replanting grant is

greater or more urgent in the smallholder sector as they need to

efficiently produce higher-yield crops to enable the commodity to remain

competitive both locally and abroad.

For the big boys in the

plantation sector, their replanting is an on-going exercise as theyhave

adequate financial provision. Nevertheless, at times of high palm oil

price, even major estates players may be induced to delay replanting of

older trees for short-term gain.

Given the top priority to

restore Malaysia’s stagnating palm oil yields, all parties concerned –

namely the estate holders and smallholders – should willingly support

the Government’s noble intention to improve the palm oil national

productivity.

Deputy news editor Hanim Adnan

personally thinks the Government, via the Malaysian Palm Oil Board,

needs to fully enforce a national replanting policy for planting

high-yielding oil palm clones.

Source : Business Times by Hanim Adnan

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