Saturday January 19, 2013
Theft of oil palm fruits drops
By JACK WONG
KUCHING: The theft of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) in oil palm estates has been reduced as processing mills have been instructed to check the sources of fruits before buying them.
Operating under the watchful eyes of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), palm oil mill operators were asked to verify where the FFBs were from and not to buy the stolen fruits, including those supplied by dealers.
The measure, according to Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing, has helped to reduce the stealing of FFBs in some areas.
ďIf mills refuse to buy stolen oil palm fruits, there will be no more stealing,Ē he said, adding that his ministry was working closely with MPOB on the matter.
He said MPOB would take stern action against errant palm oil mills.
Masing said although it would be difficult to totally eliminate illegal harvesting of FFBs, the problem had to be brought down to a manageable level, otherwise it would adversely affect the confidence of investors in the oil palm industry.
The seriousness of unauthorised harvesting of FFBs was highlighted during a meeting attended by Masingís ministry, MPOB, relevant agencies and the police more than a year ago. The meeting was to find ways to curb the theft.
It was then reported that four joint-venture oil palm plantation companies in Sri Aman, Sibu, Suai and Baram had lost about RM33mil a year due to illegal harvesting of FFBs, which was first detected in 2010.
Some of the illegal harvesting were reported to have been carried out by scheme participants due to their disputes over customary land rights or dividend payout by the plantation companies concerned.
Masing said more palm oil mills would be built to cater for the increasing production of FFBs as more estates matured.
Sarawak now has more than 1.2 million ha of oil palm plantations as compared with 682,000ha in 2007. The stateís target is to raise the planted area to two million ha in five years by opening up more native customary rights (NCR) land for large-scale cultivation. The authorities have approved 15 new applications to build the mills which would have a combined processing capacity of 3.14 million tonnes of FFBs per year when these new mills are operational within two years.
Masing said the government was aware of the difficulties faced by estates, particularly the smallholders, in certain parts of the state to sell their FFBs during the peak production period.
He suggested smallholders with bigger estates to consider pooling their resources to invest in palm oil mills.