New Straits Times - - Opinion -

MALAYSIA will cel­e­brate the 100th an­niver­sary of its palm oil in­dus­try on May 18. The birth of the in­dus­try is widely recog­nised as the first time oil palm was planted com­mer­cially in the coun­try in 1917 at the Ten­na­ma­ram Es­tate in Batang Ber­jun­tai, Se­lan­gor.

The growth of the in­dus­try, es­pe­cially from the 1970s, has been phe­nom­e­nal and has taken the in­dus­try to new heights never seen be­fore in the world as mil­lions of hectares in the coun­try have now been planted with oil palm. It has trans­formed the so­cio-econ­omy of ru­ral ar­eas and helped in the al­le­vi­a­tion of poverty. Other na­tions have fol­lowed our model.

Our suc­cess in the elim­i­na­tion of ru­ral poverty can be at­trib­uted to the Fed­eral Land De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (Felda) oil palm plan­ta­tions na­tion­wide. This golden crop has cush­ioned the econ­omy when other ex­port sec­tors were af­fected by an eco­nomic slow­down glob­ally.

Both the cor­po­rate sec­tor and Felda have con­trib­uted much to make the in­dus­try an im­por­tant com­po­nent to the na­tional econ­omy.

How­ever, the fu­ture of the in­dus­try is fraught with changes and chal­lenges due to en­vi­ron­men­tal, health, labour, pro­duc­tiv­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues, as well as strict rules such as the Round­table on Sus­tain­able Palm Oil reg­u­la­tions.

Local and in­ter­na­tional re­searchers need to work, and ex­per­i­ment, more to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity, and en­sure that a greater part of the tree as well as the waste from the milling process can be put to more ben­e­fi­cial use and byprod­ucts. This could lead to re­duc­ing the op­po­si­tion to palm oil by some multi­na­tional firms, non-govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions and coun­tries.

Greater ac­cep­tance of palm oil could oc­cur when the tree and fruits are re­garded as be­ing mul­tipur­pose, where the ben­e­fits out­weigh the dis­ad­van­tages.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) re­cently held an In­ter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion on Oil Palm Mech­a­ni­sa­tion to en­hance pro­duc­tiv­ity and prof­itabil­ity by way of new cre­ative de­signs. How­ever, the con­test was not well ad­ver­tised lo­cally and many who were in­ter­ested have not been able to par­tic­i­pate as the dead­line for en­tries was May 12. A fur­ther ex­ten­sion could en­able more par­tic­i­pants to take part.

The par­tic­i­pa­tion fee of RM300 should only be for for­eign­ers and firms and waived for local in­di­vid­u­als keen on sup­port­ing the palm oil in­dus­try. This would have en­abled them to give their in­put and sug­ges­tions through draw­ings and de­scrip­tions.

Ad­di­tion­ally, more com­pe­ti­tions such as an es­say con­test for ter­tiary stu­dents and the pub­lic, as well as a photography con­test could be held to mark the cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion. MPOB needs to mark the oil palm cen­te­nary in a more vi­brant, lively and colour­ful way to com­mem­o­rate this mile­stone event.


Sg Bu­loh, Se­lan­gor

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