KUCHING: Plantation management has to be improved to arrest the declining yields of oil palm fruits in Sarawak.
Sarawak Oil Palm Pantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) said there were serious concerns of sharply lower fresh fruit bunches (FFB) yields in the state which recorded an average of 16.23 tonnes per hectare last year compared to 20.88 tonnes in Sabah and 19.26 tonnes in Peninsular Malaysia.
It said the comparatively lower yields was due to age profile of planted oil palms and other factors, which it did not name.
“SOPPOA believes that there are gaps to be closed through improvement in plantation management,” it added in a press statement.
It said although the percentage of oil extraction rates (OER) in Sarawak was comparable to the rest of the country, it had been on a declining trend, especially for plantations along the coastal region.
SOPPOA said although Sarawak was viewed as the country’s last frontier for the palm oil industry, the growth of new planted areas was expected to slow down over the next few years due to limited land available for cultivation.
It urged Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to help local plantation companies to carry out joint studies to identify the causes of declining FFB yields in order to find ways to address the problem so that the state oil plam industry could realise its potential.
The key areas that warrant more research are nutrients management for the estates, pest and disease control, better labour management and adoption of the proposed Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) for the production of sustainable palm oil.
SOPPOA pledged to actively promote the best plantation management practices to realise the yield potential and called for the second push through focusing on productivity and sustainability.