KUCHING: Sarawak Plantation Bhd has recovered 2,000 hectares (ha) of oil palm area in encumbered estates in Mukah in central Sarawak for rehabilitation to boost fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production.
The company retakes control of these areas after it successfully negotiated win-win deals with local villagers, who disputed the land, via mutual agreements.
Last year, Sarawak Plantation recovered 1,200ha, in addition to 800ha taken back in 2018 after Ta Ann Holdings Bhd bought into and emerged as the single largest shareholder with equity interest of 30.45% in Sarawak Plantation.
Sarawak State Financial Secretary is the second largest shareholder with a stake of 25.52%.
Despite the success, it may be still a long way to go for Sarawak Plantation as it has so far recovered merely one-quarter of the planted areas under dispute with the villagers. There are still a further 6,400ha in the Mukah 1 and Mukah 3 encumbered estates to be taken back, according to executive director Datuk Wong Kuo Hea (pic).
The group owns 20 oil palm estates with total planted areas of 35,075ha in central and northern Sarawak. Young and prime matured areas account for about 62% of the total planted areas.
The group has a total land bank of more than 46,000ha, of which 1,855ha are under the native customary rights scheme.
Wong, also Ta Ann group managing director, said it is strenuous and challenging for Sarawak Plantation to recover its prolonged encumbered areas. Despite that, he said the group is working hard to regain control of all or part of the remaining encumbered estates.
Upon recovery, the encumbered areas are rehabilitated or being replanted, he added in the company’s 2019 annual report.
In 2018, Sarawak Plantation identified about 4,200ha of “problematic” matured areas for an enhancement exercise to boost yield.
According to Wong, the main problems faced by these enhancement areas were stunted palm growth, inaccessibility due to high weed, flooding and other upkeep issues.
“Production (of FFB) was minimal from these areas. These enhancement areas are mainly young matured fields which require rehabilitation.”
He said rehabilitation efforts has paid off as 45% or 2,400ha of the enhancement areas had been declared as normalised areas in 2019. Last year, the group identified an additional 1,000ha, mainly from newly declared matured areas, as enhancement areas for rehabilitation.
“The rehabilitation and enhancement activities carried out in these areas have yielded positive results, ” said Wong as evident by a 14% increase in FFB production last year to 280,648 tonnes from 245,852 tonnes in 2018. The group’s FFB yield rose by 5% year-on-year.
The group’s FFB production had been recording a downward trend since 2014 as it was saddled with various operational issues. The trend was arrested after the group implemented massive transformation and reformation works in 2018.
In 2019, Wong said Sarawak Plantation is accelerating replanting activities in low-yield and recovered areas and rehabilitating other recovered areas to increase yield.
Other action plans include increasing workers’ productivity through close supervision, regular monitoring, improving estate infrastructure and facilities and optimising equipment and machine utilisation.
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