SIBU: Sarawak, dubbed Malaysia’s last frontier growth area in oil palm cultivation, is targeting to replant an additional 443,500ha by 2030.
To achieve that target, the state has to achieve an average annual replanting of more than 34,000ha, according to Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.
He said old oil palm trees yield less fruits upon reaching their economic life of 25 years, and needed, therefore, to be replaced by new young palm trees via replanting.
“Sarawak is the largest state with an oil palm planted area of 1.56 million ha or 27% of the total planted area of 5.8 million ha in Malaysia. Sarawak is also considered the last frontier growth area for oil palm cultivation in Malaysia.
“The Sarawak government targets to expand the plantation sector to two million ha by 2020,” added Uggah at the opening of the Sarawak International Palm Oil Week here on July 25.
Currently, about 600,000ha of Sarawak’s oil palm estates are on peat land, which, according to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board research findings, yields a much lower fresh fruit bunch (FFB) and oil extraction rate as compared to the crop cultivated on material soil.
Oil palm cultivation in Sarawak, endowed with its vast land resources, achieved fast growth in recent years, as several plantation giants like Sime Darby Bhd, Boustead Holdings Bhd and IOI Corp Bhd expanded their ventures via joint partnerships with local native landowners as suitable plantation land in Peninsular Malaysia became scarce.
There are some 1.5 million ha of native customary land in Sarawak, which is largely idle or under-utilised.
Sarawak’s major timber companies have also contributed to the growth by diversifying into oil palm cultivation to reforest over-logged timber concession areas.
Uggah, also the former Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, said in tandem, more oil palm areas graduated into matured estates for new harvesting, boosting Sarawak’s FFB production. Last year, the state’s FFB output surged by 15.3% to 20.7 million tonnes.
He said although Sarawak’s average yield of FFB recorded an increase of 9.76% to 16.31 tonnes per ha last year from 14.86 tonnes per ha in 2016, this was lower than the national average of 17.89 tonnes per ha.
Sarawak ranked as second among Malaysian states as the largest producer of crude palm oil (CPO), which jumped by 15% to 4.13 million tonnes last year, up from 3.59 million tonnes in 2016.
“The CPO output in Sarawak is expected to surpass the five-million-tonne mark by 2020.
“In 2013, the export earnings (of Sarawak) from palm oil and its products were RM7.7bil and this increased to RM12.2bil in 2017,” said Uggah.