DNA decoding to increase CPO output by 100%


  • Business
  • Wednesday, 13 May 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: Sime Darby Bhd has made a scientific breakthrough by successfully decoding the DNA of the oil palm tree which will result in a 100% boost to the group’s crude palm oil (CPO) production in four to five years, the company said.

Sime Darby said it succeeded in “sequencing, assembling and annotating the oil palm genome”.

The conglomerate, Malaysia’s largest listed palm oil producer, expects the breakthrough to result in a 100% improvement in its CPO production to 10 to 12 tonnes per hectare in four to five years, from about five to six tonnes per hectare at present.

“By comparison, we now consider a 1% increase in oil yields an achievement,” said Sime Darby president and group chief executive Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid.

In all it will take about 30 years, at a 4% annual replanting rate, to see all of Sime Darby’s plantations planted with the new breed of trees, the company said.

“Other companies may have sequenced parts of the oil palm DNA but Sime Darby is the first in the world to have sequenced the entire genome,” Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid, the managing director of the group’s plantations division, told reporters.

The Sime Darby project decoded the genome with 93.8% completeness and achieved a high quality set of data, said Professor Anthony Sinskey, chairman of Sime Darby’s science advisory board.

Sinskey is also a professor of microbiology, health sciences and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Tecnology.

“In sequencing a genome, what is important is how useful the genome is. You should know that this group has done high quality work here,” Sinskey said.

The genome would also be made available to other players in the industry to base their research on. However the intellectual rights to the research is shared 80:20 between the Sime Darby group and other research partners respectively, it added.

The breakthrough in the project, which began in 2003, was achieved through a partnership with Synamatix Sdn Bhd, a biomatics company based in Malaysia and 454 Life Sciences, a Roche company.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who attended the event, said the Government has no plan to remove the windfall tax for oil palm planters, according to a Bernama report.

“Well, you know, the cost of production is about RM1,600 per tonne, so there’s quite a lot of margin,” he told reporters.

He said the Government recently increased the threshold price of CPO to RM2,500 per tonne for Peninsular Malaysia and RM3,000 for Sabah and Sarawak.

Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, was commenting on whether the Government would consider abolishing the windfall tax for oil palm planters.

Recently, there were calls by associations and industry players for the Government to consider abolishing the windfall tax as it could serve as a form of double taxation on planters as well as a deterrent to local and foreign investments in the stock market. For latest Bursa Malaysia indices, charts and other information click here

For latest Bursa Malaysia indices, charts and other information click here

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