PEMANDU drives plantation value adding

KUALA LUMPUR: The palm oil and rubber sectors met the bulk of their 2014 targets despite falling commodity prices, the Prime Minister Performance and Delivery Unit's (PEMANDU) Economic Transformation Report said.

In a sustained move to control supply and improve productivity, the government continues to lead replanting schemes. From 2011 to 2014, small farmers and independent smallholders replanted and tap into new plantings amounting to 79,737 hectares.

To date, 30 cooperatives have been established for smallholders to get bulk discounts in buying fertiliser and receive better selling prices for their fruits. Agro Bank Bhd is extending overdraft facilities to these cooperatives to help fund their working capital.

The government has set a national fresh fruit bunches (FFB) yield target of 26.2 tonnes per hectare by 2020.

As the adoption of motorised cutter CANTAS™ faced hurdles in gaining market acceptance, the government introduced an international competition on Oil Palm Mechanisation to source for new, bold ideas in loose fruit collection, harvesting, crop care and FFB evacuation.

There are plans to compress natural gas from the biogas plants to substitute petroleum natural gas. 

Public buses and taxis will soon be able to leverage on this renewable fuel. A pilot gas compression plant in Sungai Tengi, Selangor is slated to be commissioned at the end of this year.

As at December 2014, PEMANDU noted RM934.61 million investments had been committed for high value palm-based oleochemicals, food and nutraceuticals.

In Sabah, Genting Plantations and US-based specialty chemicals company Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc are putting up a 240,000-tonne metathesis bio-refinery to make olefins and other specialty chemicals.

Elevance’s low-pressure, low-temperature process uses Nobel Prize-winning innovations in metathesis catalysis that consume significantly less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent compared to petrochemical technologies. 

A highly efficient, selective catalyst will be used to break down natural oils and recombine fragments, resulting in lower source pollution, production costs and capital expenditures compared to petrochemical refineries.

All in, Genting Plantations is pumping some RM2 billion investment in its ambitious downstreaming channels with other seasoned partners like Musim Mas and Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd in Lahad Datu.

In Johor, Sime Darby Plantation and a US-based company Verdezyne Inc is investing in a specialty chemical plant to make dodecanedioic acid (DDDA). This green chemical is used in commercial fishing nets, lubricants and moulding resins.

Eight plantation companies in Sabah — including Teck Guan Group, Bell Group, Genting Plantations, Kelas Wira Sdn Bhd and Golden Elate Sdn Bhd — which collectively generate some 400,000 tonnes of biomass, are compressing them into flammable pellets for export.

Malaysian Palm Oil Board extended RM8.06 million to Wayne State University to test the efficiency of palm oil vitamin E in treating patients with end-stage renal diseases. A futher RM3.4 million went to Ohio State University to verify whether palm oil vitamin E can slow progression of end-stage liver disease.

In Lahad Datu, FGV Lipid Venture Sdn Bhd is investing RM430.51 million to churn out phytonutrients for the pharmaceutical industry by end-2016. Over at Bintulu, Sarawak Oil Palm Bhd's RM80 million vitamin E plant has started commercial production.

The rubber sector made some achievement with government agencies Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA), Sabah Rubber Industry Board and Department of Agriculture. RISDA planting 39,864 hectares in 2014. New plantings reached 11,765 hectares in the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Last year, Malaysia exported RM12.03 billion worth of rubber products, the bulk of it are medical gloves and condoms to more than 170 countries. 

In diversifying rubber earnings, the government is spearheading partnerships to produce epoxidised natural rubber (Ekoprena) and deproteinised natural rubber that can be used in green tyres and high performance engineering products.

This year, MRB is initiating a trial project on Prasarana Bhd’s Rapid Buses in the Klang Valley to use Ekoprena tyres. The road trial is slated to commence in the second half of the year.