Rabu, 24 Juli 2019

The Future of Oil Palm in Indonesia

30 Jan 2019, 10:22 WIBEditor : Ahmad Soim

Soedjai Kartasasmita | Sumber Foto:Istimewa

Soedjai Kartasasmita - Dewan Penasehat Gabungan Perusahaan Perkebunan Indonesia (GPPI)



 TABLOIDSINARTANI.COM - Keberlanjutan adalah suatu keharusan dalam industri perkebunan sawit Indonesia, meskipun dengan demikian biayanya lebih tinggi yang mungkin saja konsumen tidak mau membayar untuk itu. Dalam rangka itu, maka Penelitian dan Pengembangan harus menghasilkan inovasi yang mampu memperkuat kapasitas industri kelapa sawit dalam menghadapi tantangan baru yang diciptakan oleh perubahan iklim dan perkembangan politik lokal dan global.



If we talk about oil palm in Indonesia, the world’s biggest palm oil producing country, one cannot avoid to think about the historical event in 1848 when the Dutch imported four young oil palm trees and planted them at the Botanical Garden in Bogor.
At a later stage when tobacco plantations in North Sumatera started booming in the 1880’s plantlets from those four trees were planted as shade trees on the road side of some tobacco plantations close to Medan.

The invention of a new technology  to process palm fruit into palm oil in 1902 in Berlin drove investors to develop plantations in Cameroon and as from 1911 in North Sumatera and Aceh.

Due to North Sumatera’s ideal environmental conditions oil palm became popular so much so that new plantations expanded rapidly in the province using oil palm seed from the oil palm trees on the road side as planting material.

In 1918 the British Colony of Malaya started to grow oilpalm also and imported Deli Dura planting material from North Sumatera.
In light of these developments AVROS, the North Sumatra Plantation Association, encouraged scientists at the AVROS Research Institute in Medan to develop new varieties.

As a result of their efforts a new variety the SP 540 was launched and became the most popular variety at that time.
Rapid developments in North Sumatera made the country, still a Dutch colony at that time, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil in the late 1930’s.

After a tumultuous period in the 1950’s the Government in the 1960’s started to pay more attention to the palm oil industry which was lagging behind that of Malaysia.

Further efforts were made in the early 1970’s to expand the country’s oil palm plantations including those owned by smallholders in various provinces.

Currently the composition looks as follows :
Small holders 5 million hectares
Corporate Owned including State Owned 9 million hectares
Total production : 43 million tons of palm oil in 2018



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Talking about the effect on the economy of Indonesia I will quote the statement by a Government official during the 22nd Meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers and EU in Brussels recently: “Indonesia has credited the palm oil industry with contributing to the country’s achievement of 12 of the 17 SDGs, from poverty reduction, eliminating hunger to achieving clean and affordable energy”.

Sustainability in Indonesia is a must and in this connection the Government has issued a moratorium regulation which means that in order to save the environment expansion of oil palm plantations are not allowed any more.

Pararrel to that ISPO certification is mandatory.

The problem here is that it will take a lot of time to get the certification because the areas are so vast and land ownership regulations are not easy to be dealt with so that it will take many years before ISPO certificates can be issued to the various plantations in particular smallholders plantation.

In the meantime more expenses have to be made for improving sustainability efforts in the field in order to meet ISPO or CSPO requirements.

On the other hand there is no compensation for the higher expenses because  consumers are not willing to pay more for the certified palm oil.

This in contrast to the past when RSPO certification means higher prices for certified palm oil.

Currently things become more complicated because of high tariffs for palm oil imports in certain countries like India and in addition to that regulations pertaining to limitation of import of biodiesel by the EU.

Trade war, populism and declining globalization make life more difficult for oil palm plantation companies and smallholders.
As a result replanting of smallholders oil palm plantation cannot be realized as planned; the replanting programme planned for 2018 was 185.000 hectares but according to official Government’s sources only 6.000 hectares were realized.

This drew the attention of many journalists abroad as I have experienced with a Danish journalist last year.
His question was: “ Why does the Government not pay more attention to smallholders ?”.
I responded by giving the following answer : “ Look you have to realize that the smallholder area is about 60 percent of the total land area of Denmark”.

Then he understood the problems our Government is facing which include exports to the EU.
In light of these developments the Government has decided to reduce the use of diesel oil and replace it with biodiesel up to 20 % (B 20) even up to 30 % (B 30) in the near future.

Climate change will have a big impact on oil palm plantations.
Due to higher temperature and humidity levels working in the field will not become the ambition of young people in spite of the higher wages.

So innovations and the use of improved agritechnology are mandatory for plantations in order to survive.
This all means that research and development should become high priority for the oil palm industry.
Human recourses development should be improved so that people working in plantations will in the future be more innovative and more adaptive to the new conditions created by climate change.

Sustainability is a must in the plantation industry despite its higher costs that consumers are not willing to pay for that. 
Research and Development should produce innovations which should strengthen the capacity of the palm oil industry in facing the new challenges created by climate change and political developments.

The use of bio diesel is one of the solutions which has been made by the Government. Human resources development should be improved in line with the changing conditions. 

Jakarta, 24 January 2019

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