BANGI, Selangor: SMALLHOLDERS who want to plant oil palms, be it replanting or new plantings, are now entitled to a higher allocation from the government.
Those who own 40ha or less are eligible for the replanting grant. As for new plantings, the incentive can only be accorded to those who own up to five hectares in Peninsular Malaysia and a maximum of seven hectares for Sabah and Sarawak.
Previously, the government allocated RM7,000 per hectare to smallholders who plant up oil palms. This one-off grant is actually a small token of gratuity to help pay for the planting up costs.
Now, the government has raised the allocation to RM7,500 per hectare for oil palm land in Peninsular Malaysia. As for Sabah and Sarawak, it has been raised to RM9,000 per hectare.
In an interview yesterday, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) director general Datuk Dr Choo Yuen May said: "The Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister has approved the new rate to be backdated to January 2011."
"This means smallholders who had previously been approved of the RM7,000 per hectare, allocation will now automatically be entitled to the new rate. The actual amount, whether it is RM7,500 per hectare or RM9,000 per hectare, will depend on the location of their oil palm plantings. We urge smallholders to deal directly with MPOB and not go through other government agencies," she told Business Times.
There are around 170,000 independent smallholders in Malaysia. With 700,000ha, they account for 14 per cent of the country's five million hectares of oil palm land. This year, the government expects smallholders to plant up 40,000ha, with higher yielding seedlings.
The concerted effort by the government to help smallholders replant is meant to raise the annual national oil yield, which has been stagnating at below four tonnes per hectare over the last two decades.
Choo also highlighted that smallholders who rely solely on planting oil palms are entitled to additional farming subsistence. "Smallholders who do not have any other source of income and own less than 2.5ha will also be entitled to RM500 per month subsistence for two years. This is in addition to the replanting grant," she said.
Asked if she is optimistic of smallholders achieving the 40,000ha planting target, she said there are enough high yielding planting materials to go around. "Every year, seed producers churn out some 80 million oil palm seeds a year, of which 50 million are available to local planters," she added.