KOTA KINABALU 9/11/2012: A suggestion to impose a moratorium on further expansion of oil palm plantations within the Heart of Borneo (HoB) was recently heard during the HoB International Conference.
“It is the idea of one of the (discussion) groups and it is a joint suggestion to the government that had a lot of support,” said Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne who was also a facilitator.
He added that the suggestion was made after hearing the Agriculture Department stating that 90 percent of Sabah’s agriculture land was occupied by oil palm, and only 10 percent were rice and other crops.
“There is a body of thinking that Sabah has enough oil palm now.
One convenient way to moderate future expansion of oil palm and promote land owners to plant other crops such as rice and rubber could be to reduce the expansion of oil palm. One convenient way to do that is a moratorium, a temporary period where no more oil palm expansion is allowed within the Heart of Borneo,” he said.
“Ecologically, that makes sense because most of the agriculture land in Heart of Borneo is fairly remote and steep slopes, which means it is not good for oil palm.”
Dr Junaidi explained further that a moratorium is not a ban.
“The proposal is to have a period of two to three years only. The suggestion is to let’s have a break. One of the points of these is not to make life difficult for the oil palm sector but to give breathing space for other land use particularly in relation to food security, to have other crops coming in rather than just the expansion of oil palm.”
Dr Junaidi also felt that a moratorium on further expansion of oil palm plantations in the Heart of Borneo would not necessarily affect the government’s income since the government earns its income from the sales tax of crude palm oil or CPO.
¡°One way to increase the production of CPO is to improve productivity on existing oil palm, and we know a lot of fresh fruit bunches are not harvested because there is not enough labour, so there was a suggestion why not provide more legal labour for oil palm.
“There was also a suggestion to increase oil extraction which is 22 to 23 percent. One of the participants said that there is a technology that allows you to extract one percent more of oil by improving the treatment of waste.
“The bottom line is one can actually increase government income from the sales tax on export of crude palm oil by boosting productivity in existing plantation rather than expanding in new and probably marginalized areas in the Heart of Borneo,” said Dr Junaidi.
by Jenne Lajiun