“This programme really opened up our eyes on the efforts of the Malaysian palm oil industry to produce palm oil responsibly,” says Ms. Johnston of South Africa. She is one of the journalists who participated in the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s familiarization programme to an oil palm plantation in Sandakan, Malaysia, recently. The program, held in conjunction with the International Palm Oil Sustainability Program (IPOSC), provided opportunity to a group of both local and international journalists to discover and acquaint themselves with oil palm, its management & plantation practices as well as the efforts of the Malaysian palm oil industry towards sustainable production of palm oil. The other journalists attending this programme were from the USA, UAE, P.R. of China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Malaysia.
The two-day programme kicked off with a visit to the headquarter of IJM Plantations Berhad, an oil palm operator and one of the hosts of the programme. There, the journalists were briefed on the background and corporate social responsibilities of IJM Plantations Berhad as well as the agenda of the programme. After the briefing, the journalists took an hour drive to the company’s Quality, Training & Research Center in Sijas Estate. In the estate, they spent about two and half hours learning about the functions of the center such as training course for graduates, research on germplasm, production & quality control of oil palm planting materials and control of oil palm diseases. The journalists also learned about the Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a set of standard practices in Malaysian oil palm plantations which uses biological means such as barn owl, predatory insects, pheromones, and flowering plants to control pests. Before leaving, they paid a visit to an oil palm nursery and the workers’ housing facilities located nearby the center.
Following the visit, the journalists took an-hour boat ride to Sabang Estate in Sugut for an overnight stay. This estate is an example of IJM’s commitment to the conservation of the environment as it maintains a few portions of the forest areas dedicated by the company for the conservation of biodiversity. At the estate, the journalists were guided to Sabang Arboretum which preserves a collection of forest tree species and a medicinal plant garden. In the evening, the journalists took a boat ride along the Sabang River to sight viewing the pristine mangrove forest and its wildlife.
In the next morning, the journalists visited an oil palm field where another briefing on estate operations was given. This include land preparation, irrigation, oil palm planting, pruning and harvesting as well as generation of electricity from palm fibres and shells. The participants were informed that all these are carried out with minimal impact to the soil, air, and water qualities. At the field, the participants had a chance to prune oil palm’s fronds and harvest a fresh fruit bunch before briefly left for a nearby oil palm mill.
At the end of the programme, the journalists commented that that they were grateful to have a chance to learn about this wonderful crop and to visit an oil palm field. Having seen by themselves, they agreed that oil palm has many more to offer than meeting the growing global demand for oils & fats and nutrition to mankind.