Sarawak expects CPO output to grow 15pc

MEDAN (Indonesia): Sarawak expects 15 per cent output growth to 2.5 million tonnes of crude palm oil this year, as more oil palms mature and bear more fruits.

In an interview with Business Times, Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners' Association (SOPPOA) chairman Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi said the association members should be able to harvest between 10 to 20 per cent more than last year. "Many of our members' tree profile is pointing towards favourable output in the immediate years. Malaysia's final expansion frontier is in Sarawak, he added.

Indeed, with some three million hectares of agriculture land yet to be cultivated, the growth story lies squarely on Sarawak. As at December 2010, the country's oil palm planted area totalled 4.85 million hectares.

Last year, the Malaysian Palm Oil Board's data show that both Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah's crude palm oil output fell by 6 per cent and 3 per cent to 9.5 million tonnes and 5.3 million tonnes, respectively. Sarawak's production, however, went up by 9 per cent to 2.2 million tonnes.

While the prospects for Sarawak planters look bright, Hamed noted the industry faces mounting challenge from well-funded environmental activists running campaigns blackballing the oil palm industry.

Last year, environmental activist Wetlands International claimed 20 per cent of Malaysia's oil palm plantations are grown on peatland. More recently, it released a report by SarVision claiming that more than a third of Sarawak's peatland and 10 per cent of the state's forests were cleared between 2005 and 2010, for oil palm plantations.

It also alleged oil palm planting on peat displaced orangutans, tigers and elephants and increased carbon emissions.

These claims are repeatedly argued to further its "no indirect land use change" agenda, which Hamed noted actually poses a serious threat to the world's supply of cooking oils and fats. This is in addition to the obvious impact of curbing efforts to raise living standards through oil palm cultivation for poverty stricken states like Sarawak.

Apart from Wetlands' failure to adduce any credible scientific evidence that can be verified, SOPPOA chairman noted SarVision's definition of 'forest' is in line with that of UNFCCC which state that trees taller than 5m are considered as forest.

"So, how can it be said there is deforestation when oil palms fits the United Nation's definition of forest plantations like fir and cone trees in Europe?

"How can it be said that planting oil palms is highly polluting when these trees, like any other forest specie, produce oxygen for us to breathe?" he asked.

Hamed said smear campaigns by environmental activists to unjustifiably restrict expansion of oil palm plantation in Sarawak are denying adequate supply of affordable and nutritious palm oil to the world, particularly developing nations.

He reiterated the oil palm is an economic security crop for Sarawak and the country. This is because Malaysia's annual US$20 billion (RM60.6 billion) palm oil exports support some two million jobs and livelihoods along the sprawling value chain.

The importance of the oil palm industry cannot be denied. "During the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, palm oil was one of Malaysia's most important sources of foreign exchange," Hamed said.

He referred to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs head Prof KS Jomo's working papers attesting palm oil export earnings saved Malaysia during the crisis by spurring economic growth.

2 Responses to Sarawak expects CPO output to grow 15pc

  1. It is news articles like these that made my boss subscribe to NST and not The Star.

    When it comes to business, NST has all the news that really matter.

  2. Ya la Polaris,..i'm putting my money in Sarawak plantation stocks. Cannot depend on fixed deposits, interest rate so low.

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