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 SWKPLNT 5135  SARAWAK PLANTATION BERHAD recovers matured palm areas

KUCHING: Sarawak Plantation Bhd has recovered almost 50% of the 6,500ha of encumbered matured oil palm areas in Mukah district in Sarawak central region.

Total encumbered areas in Mukah 1 and Mukah 3 estates recovered have increased to 3,200ha as of December 2021, leaving the matured areas which remain encumbered at about 3,300ha, according to group executive director Datuk Wong Kuo Hea.

In 2018, Sarawak Plantation negotiated a win-win deal with local villagers by resolving the disputes between them with written mutual agreement on the first 800ha.

This was followed by the successful recovery of more matured encumbered areas under similar agreements in the past three years.

The company carried out rehabilitation or replanting activities for these recovered areas to boost future fresh fruit bunches (FFB) production.

Besides, Sarawak Plantation has for several years failed to harvest FFBs from another oil palm estate under joint-venture with native customary rights landowners due to unresolved disputes with the participants.

The encumbered estate, of which 1,744ha have been planted, is in Suai, northern Sarawak.

Last year, Sarawak Plantation “normalised” an additional 1,800ha of oil palm areas (out of some 6,000 ha which the company has identified for improvement and enhancement since 2018).

Wong said 80% of these areas, which were faced with stunted palm growth, inaccessibility due to high weed, flooding and other upkeep areas, have been normalised.

“These areas are mostly young mature fields and were in critical need of rehabilitation.

“As at end of 2021, around 1,100ha remains as enhancement areas and is expected to be normalised gradually within these two years,” added Wong in the company’s 2021 annual report.

Wong is also group managing director and CEO of Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, which acquired a 30.39% stake in Sarawak Plantation in early 2018.

Sarawak Plantation group owns 16 oil palm estates with total land bank of 43,481ha and another 412 ha estate under joint-venture with a state agency. The group also owns two palm oil mills with a total operating capacity of 120 tonnes per hour.

Last year, the group replanted about 1,200ha.

“Young and prime mature areas represent 65% of the total immature, harvestable and enhancement areas of 26,537ha, which will bring higher production in the years to come,” said Wong.

In 2021, the group’s FFB production fell by 6% to 319,999 tonnes (2020: 341,065 tonnes) due mainly to cyclical palm stress and harvesters’ shortage following a halt in foreign workers’ intake due to closed border arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Labour shortage has been worsening due to cessation of foreign workers’ intake.

“In alleviating this unavoidable issue, the group continued its mitigating measures to prioritise and focus harvesting works at high yielding areas and to deploy general workers for harvesting at scout harvesting and young mature fields.

“However, when the labour shortage affecting this industry is addressed, we expect our FFB production to improved further,” said Wong.

Despite lower production and higher operating costs, Sarawak Plantation delivered remarkable earnings in the financial year ended Dec 31, 2021, with group net profit more than doubled to an all-time high of RM128mil (FY20: RM61.4mil) on a 70% increase in revenue to RM790mil (RM465.8mil), driven by the bullish palm oil prices.

On action plans for 2022, Wong said Sarawak Plantation will continue its replanting activities in recovered encumbered areas and areas with low yield fruits.

Others include increase production and yield of existing and newly matured areas as well as to complete capacity upgrading of the Niah palm oil mill to 80 tonnes per hour from the current 60 tonnes per hour.

Wong said the group will also continue to improve facilities and infrastructures of the oil palm estates and pursue mechanisation and automation of its operations to maximise output and enhance operational efficiency.

He said the group has adopted replanting strategies that allows for future mechanisation of the estate.

“The group’s future prospects are positive. With relatively young and prime mature fields, there is upside potential in its production (of FFB) in the near future.

“Replanting activities and efforts in the past years are also expected to contribute positively to production growth,” he added.

https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2022/05/02/sarawak-plantation-recovers-matured-palm-areas

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