Palm oil industry provides steady incomes for over 30% of state’s total workforce

Longhouse residents are now free from the shackles of poverty with the help of the government in agriculture and they now enjoy the benefits of palm oil crops cultivated on a small scale in Kampung Bayai Sri Aman, here today.ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / THE STAR

KUCHING: The palm oil industry is becoming a major contributor to Sarawak’s economy after oil and gas and the timber industry.

According to the Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA), the industry had generated over RM2.2bil in revenue from 2002 to 2013 while investments of plantations and estates, mills and other related activites were well over RM21.9bil.

Currently, more than 1.2 million hectares are planted with oil palm in Sarawak and the industry is poised for further growth due to the sustainable and renewable nature of being a crop that only needs replanting after approximately 25 productive years.

SOPPOA said the industry provided steady incomes to landowners and smallholders as well as job opportunities in support services such as transportation, contractors and suppliers of goods and services.

It said the palm oil industry accounted for over 30% of the state’s total workforce with the inclusion of foreign workers brought in to supplement the labour demand.

SOPPOA also said statistics from the Land Development Ministry showed that as of December 2013, more than 44,598 landowners had participated in oil palm cultivation on an organised basis with another 17,578 smallholders actively involved in the industry.

“What this means is that idle lands are being utilised for commercial agriculture, earning incomes for landowners, raising employment and the standard of living for rural communities and providing opportunities for their children to education, health benefits and bright futures,” it said in a statement.

It also noted that palm oil was one of the most stringently-governed industries in Malaysia, coming under the purview of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) in matters relating to planting, harvesting and export.

In Sarawak, the industry is further subjected to land codes and laws in the state as well as the Land Development Ministry’s purview.

“This means that the industry is well regulated and subjected to laws in all aspects of operations, which are geared towards sustainability and adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP),” SOPPOA said.

It said palm oil produced in Sarawak was traceable from the mills to the fresh fruit suppliers as the majority was from estates of the mills’ companies which adopted GAP in their operations.

Smallholders who send fresh fruit bunches to the mills also need to adopt GAP as part of their responsibility to ensure that the entire supply chain is traceable.

“As such, programmes to inform and educate smallholders on GAP and Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) practices are being undertaken by respective agencies like MPOB, Land Development Ministry and SOPPOA members,” it added.

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