KUCHING: The palm oil industry in Sarawak is a major contributor to the economy of the state and also the country, but it continues to face challenges on many fronts.
One of the most crucial ones is meeting the expectations of Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB)’s stringent guidelines for mills in Oil Extraction Rate (OER) and Kernel Extraction Rate (KER), set at 24.5 per cent nationwide.
According to Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa), MPOB expects the industry to continue improving on the percentage as this would mean that the industry is progressing in terms of productivity and also technological gains.
“Unfortunately in Sarawak, such expectations are beyond the capabilities of the industry here through (it is) no fault of theirs; the scientific reasons have yet to be ascertained by MPOB,” the association said in a statement issued yesterday.
Soppoa also said when should the mills in Sarawak fail to meet the 24.5 per cent target for OER and KER, applications for the increase of mill processing capacity would also be rejected by MPOB – the authority licensed to grant such approval.
“In the case of Sarawak, this is a double dilemma – on one hand, the area under oil palm is expanding; hence production is increasing yearly and yet, the mills are unable to obtain approval to increase processing capacity due to the inability to meet the 24.5-per cent standard.
“As such, Soppoa appeals to the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, MPOB and the state government to look into this matter urgently before more damage comes to the industry as a whole.”
Soppoa suggested that as a start, the authorities should relax the 24-per cent ruling for the time being until a solution is found to deal with the persistent low oil extraction yields experienced in the state.
“One contributing reason for the low oil yields in Sarawak is due to the poor fruit sets experienced in many estates, particularly those along the coastal belt from Baram to Mukah. This means that the fruit bunches are poorly formed and therefore, unable to produce the expected oil extraction rate. The MPOB has, in fact, studied this issue in Sarawak but is unable to identify the cause(s).
“This issue is also not new – low extraction rate has been experienced over the past five years and MPOB researchers have conducted tests, but still unable to identify the causes for the poor fruit settings. Despite these findings, MPOB continues to insist that mills in Sarawak must meet the 24.5-per cent criteria for them (mills in Sarawak) to be granted expansion of capacity to meet the increasing FFB (fresh fruit bunch) production.”
In view of this, Soppoa appealed to the relevant authorities to review the existing conditions for mills expansion in Sarawak urgently as through no fault of theirs, they are being held responsible for low yields and hence, being ‘penalised’ by not being granted the expansion of mills capacity.
“There is a need for more and urgent researches by MPOB into the issues affecting poor fruit sets and yields, as the current situation will only result in loss of revenues to companies and government.
“The root cause(s) for the poor fruit set yields should first be ascertained in Sarawak before unilateral decisions are being made to reject approval for the increase in mill processing capacity in Sarawak.
“Soppoa believes that a win-win solution must be found before more damage is being inflicted upon the future growth of the industry here,” it stressed.
(Taken from The Borneo Post)