By Nurul Hanis Izmir
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 -- Malaysian oil palm companies, especially members of the Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), had stopped practising open burning in their plantations since 1985, way before the establishment of RSPO in 2004, said Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) chief executive Datuk Nageeb Wahab.
He said companies like Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) and Genting Plantations Bhd had replaced the open burning with another method that involved chipping of oil palm trees.
“Instead of burning it, they chipped the trees and spread it out so it becomes biomass (fertiliser)…we have been doing that since 1985 when they (industry players) discovered the technique,” he told Bernama recently.
Naqeeb was responding to a statement that Indonesia has identified six Malaysian-linked companies operating estates in the republic from 56 firms that are responsible for the open burning that causes haze phenomenonregionally.
The companies are PT Ichtiar Gusti Pudi, (linked to Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd), PT Menteng Jaya Sawit Perdana and PT Adei Plantation and Industries (linked to KLK), PT Sime Indo Agro (a company linked to SDP), PT Rafi Kamajaya Abadi (linked to TDM Bhd), and PT Kebun Ganda Prima, which is linked to Silver Investments Ltd of Malaysia.
Elaborating further, Naqeeb said for some estates, the fire spread into their plantations but they had managed to put it under control rather quickly, except for TDM Plantation Sdn Bhd which has plantations of a larger scale.
Malaysian oil palm companies had refuted the allegation levelled against them with some saying the recent fire incident happened outside their operations.
SDP, for example, said that the fire located in lands occupied by local communities, while IOI Corporation Bhd was reported as saying that it has put in place a surveillance system and dedicated resources to put out fires within its boundaries.
“The problem is when it is a dry season, you just throw a cigarette to spark a fire, but the point is all these companies are ready with equipment to help. Most of our members have those facilities,” he explained.
Naqeeb, who is also the chairman of Felcra Bhd, instead urged both Malaysia and Indonesia to work together to overcome the issue and put a stop to the ongoing negative perception about the commodity in the European Union.
He stressed that oil palm plantations are not the sole cause of the open burning and haze, echoing Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries’ (CPOPC) stance that forest fires are a global problem with recent wildfire incidents occurred in Russia, Australia and California in the United States.
In its statement recently, CPOPC noted that there were no calls for bans or boycotts of either Russian products or Australian beef and sugarcane.
“In Southeast Asia, governments — notably Singapore and Indonesia — have held the responsible actors to account. They have taken action against pulp companies, noting that they were responsible for many of the fires in Sumatra.
“Yet it has been palm oil products — not paper products — that have borne much of the criticism outside the region,” said CPOPC.
The council said smallholders have used burning as part of ‘swidden’ agriculture for centuries in Asia, Europe and the rest of the world. Fire clears vegetation and the ash leaves nutrients in the soil.
“In the United States, for example, ‘field burning’ is still used across many states as part of agricultural management. Across Southeast Asia today starting fires this way is generally illegal, and in many countries, it is harshly punished.
“While there are some exceptions, usually granted by permit, these are not the responsibility of the palm oil sector,” CPOPC added.
MPOA represents 118 plantation companies, which account for 1.87 million hectares or 40 per cent of the total planted oil palm area in the country.
Its members include the plantation sector’s big boys (RSPO-certified) such as KLK, FGV Holdings Bhd, SDP and IOI Bhd.