JAKARTA – The Indonesian Association of Palm Oil Producers (GAPKI) is calling on the government to revitalize its transmigration program which had in the past successfully helped improve the welfare of people and oil palm farmers in the regions.
ILLUSTRATION. Workers load palm oil seedling. (Photo: Wicaksono/The Palm Scribe)
GAPKI Secretary General Togar Sitanggang said that the government’s transmigration program, which moved millions of people from densely-populated Java and Bali islands to the other islands in the archipelago, had been successful in opening up new plantation areas, including of oil palm, in the regions, including in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.
Many of the participants of the government-sponsored program later became successful oil palm planters, helping to boost economic growth and development in their regions.
“Historically, four out of every five new administrative regions at the district level were formerly transmigration area where the population depended on palm oil for their livelihood,” Sitanggang said at the launch of a book titled “Privatization of Transmigration and Plasm Partnership Provided Support to the Palm Oil Industry.”
The launch, which also featured a discussion of the book published by the Institute for Ecosoc Rights in cooperation with the Norwegian Center for Human Rights took place in Jakarta on Thursday (11/1/2018).
It is because of this successful transmigration program and its resulting oil palm plantation that Indonesia later became the world’s largest palm oil exporter. The experts of palm oil and its derivatives, through its export duty, are now the government’s main source of revenues.
The government’s accumulative revenues from the export duty imposed on palm oil has risen from a mere Rp 4,2 trillion in 20078 to Rp 111.6 trillion in 2016. The amount is higher than the accumulative value of the subsidies received by farmers, livestock breeders and fishermen in the past five years. The palm oil industry has become a substantial source of tax revenues, through land and building tax, added value tax and income tax.
Although it has become one of the backbone of the national economy, the palm oil industry continues to have to deal with a negative image. Campaign taking up issues that attack this crop still often come up.
The chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Society (Maksi) Darmono Taniwiryono said that many do not have a deep knowledge of palm oil but talk negatively about it. The result is that these negative opinions have since been able to seep into the thoughts of the young Indonesian generation, from home to their schools.
“The government and the people should start from now on push for a stepped up promotion of palm oil,” Taniwiryono said.
President Joko Widodo himself has since indicated that the government was becoming increasingly serious in giving attention to the palm oil sector. This can be seen from two of his ongoing government programs — the rejuvenation of people’s oil palm plantations and agrarian reforms.
The people’s oil palm plantation replanting program aimed at boosting their productivity has been started towards the end of last year in South Sumatra and North Sumatra and is being now expanded to other regions. At the same time, the president has been distributing land certificate to farmers so that they have a better legal certainty on their palm oil plantations and also have better access to funding facilities.
However, there are yet to signs that the government will revive its transmigration program.