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Oil palm most suitable crop for peat areas — Association

Saturday, 23 March 2013

KUCHING: Oil palm cultivation in Sarawak currently accounts for over 1.2 million hectares of arable land and has proven to be both productive as well as optimising use of designated agriculture areas.

All plantations and estates in Sarawak are licenced by MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board) to operate on legitimate agricultural land under the land use policy of the state and oil palm is the most suitable crop for both mineral soil and peat areas found here.

According to the statement from Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa), the steady increase in planted area and productivity clearly shows that the state is on track to be among the top palm oil producers in the country.

Oil palm can only be planted in former agricultural land, formerly cleared logged areas or designated agriculture areas; there is no new clearing of land for oil palm cultivation permitted in the state.

As a crop, the oil palm functions like any other forest, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through their green leaves all year round. In fact, Malaysian Deforestation Free Palm Oil is 100 per cent in compliance with the definition of ‘Forest’ under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which states: ‘Forest’ is a minimum area of land of 0.05–1.0 hectare with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10–30 per cent with trees with the potential to reach a minimum height of 2–5 metres at maturity in situ.

A forest may consist either of closed forest formations where trees of various storeys and undergrowth cover a high proportion of the ground or open forest.

Young natural stands and all plantations which have yet to reach a crown density of 10–30 per cent or tree height of 2–5 metres are included under forest, as are areas normally forming part of the forest area which are temporarily unstocked as a result of human intervention such as harvesting or natural causes, but which are expected to revert to forest.

“Currently, there are plantations here with over 25 years of oil palm planting in peat areas and these estates have proven to be as productive as those planted on mineral soils,” said Soppoa in a statement yesterday.

It said the industry follows sound Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) when planting on peat by maintaining the water level at between 50-60 cm from the ground level which allows the peat areas to retain their composition and characteristics.

What these productive estates show is that oil palm cultivation on peat is not destructive as claimed by some NGOs but are in fact, making optimal and sustainable use of  land.

“If we look at the 1987 United Nation’s Brundtland Commission definition that ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’, planting oil palm is clearly sustainable as long as Good Management Practices are carried out,” the statement added.

The statement explained that on the milling aspect, GHG, discharge of effluent and disposal of biomass are also being monitored by the regulating agencies in the country.

Estates now employ a number of ways to contain GHG like making use of methane gas for fuel and power and converting biomass into fuel, chemicals and power.

In fact, at every stage of the oil palm industry, from the designated area for planting to the refining of the oil, all are strictly regulated to ensure that palm oil is sustainably produced.

The 3Ps – People, Planet and Profit, is the most holistic approach to sustainability of the oil palm industry in Malaysia.

“By taking care of our people and placing good agricultural practices into our industry, we are ensuring that the future generation will be able to continue to enjoy the earth and all its beauty,” said Soppoa.

It said as businesses, there is certainly a need to be profitable to be sustainable too.

“By having all these, the oil palm industry here is slowly but surely, contributing to the growth of the state in terms of employment, environmentally sustainable and generating profitability to businesses of all related industries,” said the association.

Soppoa also cautioned Malaysians to be aware of the ‘politics’ being used by others to paint a bad picture of the nation and the palm oil industry and to counter check if the agricultural practices in these foreign countries are even sustainable at all.

Taken from The Borneo Post