Planters: Let millers go full capacity

KUALA LUMPUR: Planters in Sarawak, who are experiencing bumper harvests, are appealing to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to allow millers to run their plants at full capacity.

"We are losing hundreds of million ringgit in the form of rotting fruits," said Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa).

"We have members who own mills designed to process 90 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches (FFB) per hour but MPOB only allows them to run at 60 tonnes per hour. When we run the mill at the design capacity, we are compounded by MPOB. Upon appeal, MPOB later licensed the mills to run at 75 tonnes per hour.

"Why can't MPOB straight away approve the running of our mills according to the design capacity? Why are millers made to pay compound after compound and submit in appeal after appeal?" Soppoa vice-president Paul Wong asked.

"Right now, there are lorries filled with fresh fruit bunches waiting to be processed, many of which are sourced from smallholders. We appeal to MPOB not to compound millers when they run at full capacity. It is not fair to penalise millers when they are doing their best to help smallholders contribute to the country's palm oil exports," he said in a telephone interview from Miri.

Last year, Sarawak harvested 2.2 million tonnes of palm oil. A 10 per cent average of uncollected fruits at a conservative pricing of RM2,800 crude palm oil (CPO) price translates into some RM600 million loss in export opportunity from Sarawak.

As at December 2010, Sarawak's oil palm planted area stood at 0.9 million hectare, of which close to 10 per cent of the hectarage is owned by about 7,500 smallholders.

Earlier this year, Soppoa forecast 15 per cent output growth to 2.5 million tonnes of CPO, as more oil palms mature and bear more fruits. "We appeal to the decision- makers at MPOB to look at this problem in totality. For the country to achieve 18.3 million tonnes in CPO output, it is pertinent for Sarawak to be able to achieve the 2.5-million-tonnes target," Wong said.

The MPOB is the regulator of the palm oil industry.

Meanwhile, MPOB director-general Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May, when commenting on the issue yesterday, said: "We will investigate this matter, I will get my officers to get to the bottom of this bottleneck problem."

Choo was speaking at the launch of the fourth phase of B5 implementation by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok at a BHPetrol service station here. B5 is a fuel blend of regular diesel (95 per cent) and palm biodiesel (5 per cent).

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