KOTA KINABALU: Help is on the way for thousands of oil palm smallholders in dire straits following the plunging crude palm oil prices.
State and federal authorities are embarking on a five-prong strategy to help these smallholders in the state to ride out the global economic recession that has caused the drop in demand for crude palm, said Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman.
Replying to a question from Datuk Ramlee Marahaban (BN – Buggaya), he said the strategies included getting related government agencies such as Sawit Kinabalu, the Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) and Felda to buy oil palm fruits at a price not less than the smallholders’ production costs.
He said biodiesel – a combination of methyl ester derived from palm oil and regular diesel – would be a power generation fuel in Sabah, adding this project undertaken jointly by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Tenaga Nasional and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd.
Musa said the government had also directed the Sabah Development Bank, the Sabah Credit Corporation and Agro Bank to reschedule the smallholders’ loan repayments.
He said the Government was also encouraging smallholders with trees older than 25 years to take part in a re-planting programme using higher yielding oil palm clones.
Noting the importance of the palm oil sector to the state economy, Musa said the Government had also set up an action committee to closely monitor any developments or problems.
Assistant Minister of Finance Datik Tawfiq Abu Bakar Titingan told the House that the Federal Government’s special grants to Sabah was RM26.7mil a year and the figure had remained unchanged since 1973.
Replying to a question from Melanie Chia (SAPP – Luyang), he said the special grants as specified under Article 112C of the Constitution had been steadily increased from 1964 until 1973.
He said, in total, the state had received RM1.12bil from Kuala Lumpur through these grants.
To another question, Community Develop- ment and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Azizah Mohd Dun said the price of various foodstuffs in Sabah had increased by between 11% and 35% between June and October this year following a sharp hike in fuel prices.