|Oil Palm is a profitable crop to grow.|
THE LEADERS of the oil palm industry in the Philippines are deploring the apparent lack of interest of the government in encouraging oil palm production in the country.
A paper newly released by the Philippine Palmoil Development Council, Inc. (PPDCI), states that the country’s palm oil imports from Malaysia alone have been soaring since the time President Aquino took office. For instance, in 2009, the Philippines imported only 119,229 metric tons of palm oil from Malaysia. This increased to 204,731 tons in 2010, and soaring to 543,000 metric tons in 2011 worth P28.03 billion. If the trend holds, the palm oil imports of the Philippines from Malaysia could reach 597,000 metric tons in 2012, according to PPDCI.
This trend worries the local oil palm council because instead of the local farmers benefiting from the increased consumption of palm oil in the country, it is the Malaysian farmers who are reaping the benefits.
The leaders of the PPDCI believe that the Department of Agriculture officials are anti-Oil Palm Farming (OPF). They say that the DA officials have put the OPF expansion in the Philippines of 60,000 hectares to a standstill.
The local oil palm industry leaders suspect that the DA leadership has been convinced by the distorted information from NGOs who are well-funded by the “Western conspirators” to “preach” and magnify the so-called negative aspects of oil palm farming.
For example, the local leaders say, “these NGOs pointed out that the palm oil processing byproducts are polluting the environment in Indonesia and Malaysia. The truth is, the byproducts are now fully converted into organic fertilizers and biogas, providing cheap source of organic fertilizers and electricity in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
They further suspect that the main purpose of the “Western conspirators” is to spread erroneous information to prevent further growth of the production of cheap, highly healthful and nutritious palm oil so they could maintain a good portion of the global oil markets for soybean, sunflower and canola oils and at a higher price which many Filipinos cannot afford.
The PPDCI suggests that President Aquino organize an interagency task force headed by the DA with the participation of the DAR, DENR, DOST, LGUs, DILG, DTI, PPDCI and the banking sector. They could prepare a palm oil development roadmap and promote the massive planting of oil palm to reach 300,000 hectares by 2016.
The PPDCI says that there are over one million hectares of grass and brushlands in Southern Philippines, Mindanao in Particular, suitable for oil palm farming. If these areas are planted to oil palm, the Philippines could become a major palm oil exporting country just like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The local oil palm leaders say that the People of Mindanao have been anxiously waiting for the opportunity from a government-supported lead program similar to what is being done in rice, corn and coconut to promote mass planting of oil palm.
The PPDCI cites the high income from oil palm farming. A farmer could have a yearly net income of P70,000 to P120,000 per hectare per year. The expansion to 300,000 hectares could also meet the requirements of the local consumption of vegetable oil. The 300,000 hectares could at the same time provide high income to 150,000 small landholders and employment opportunities to 75,000 farm workers.