KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will not allow any new oil palm plantations to eat into its permanent forest reserves, said Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (pic).
"Any future plantation development, including oil palm plantations, will only be carried out on previous agricultural land or degraded land," the Sabah Chief Minister said in a statement here on Tuesday (Oct 2).
He said Sabah fully agrees with the federal government in upholding Malaysia's pledge to the international community that the country will maintain 50% of its land as forest cover.
This pledge was first made at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and reiterated in several major international conferences, including the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
He said the Sabah government believes that balancing development and conservation was vital to achieving a sustainable economy for present and future generations of Sabahans.
Due to low global prices for palm oil, Shafie said the state government will move away from the crop and will, for the time being, only focus on rubber, fruits, plantation timber, cocoa and other crops.
"In view of the volatility of palm oil prices in a competitive edible oil environment, the state government will encourage and assist local farmers and smallholders to switch to other cash crops with better local and global demands," he said.
Shafie said this was to protect the livelihoods of smallholders against over exposure to the fluctuations of the global palm oil prices which are beyond the control of the state.
As for timber, he explained the state was trying to get better value from it by processing wood (into planks, plywood etc), rather than just exporting round logs.
Hence, Sabah has banned the export of round logs since July 2018, as it brought low economic returns.
This was also part of efforts to conserve forests, protect wildlife and reform the forestry sector.
"A downstream business in timber products has been shown to bring more benefits to local communities," Shafie added.
Sabah, he said, will work together with the federal government to enhance sustainable forest management practices to revitalise the sector as an important economic contributor to the country.