Despite having the third largest oil palm-planted surface in Indonesia, the crop has failed to lift West Kalimantan from its current position as the poorest of the five provinces on Borneo and therefore the province should not only rely on the commodity as its main revenue earner, the Madani Berkelanjutan Foundation said.
“The expansion of oil palm plantations in West Kalimantan up until now turns out to not be in proportion with the growth of the local economy. Therefore, the region’s government should accord its focus on balancing the commodity types in the region,” Madani Berkelanjutan Executive Director Muhammad Teguh Surya, said during an online discussion titled “The Future of West Kalimantan in the Oil Palm Era,” on Wednesday (8/4.)
Teguh aired his hope that other plantation commodities could also be given the chance to compete as contributors to the local economy so that the region could also be more resistant to the fluctuating economic conditions because it did not only depend on one sole major commodity – oil palm.
“Specifically regarding the oil palm commodity, the biggest challenge faced by the West Kalimantan government is the low level of productivity. The West Kalimantan government needs to prioritize the optimal improvement in oil palm productivity while halting the expansion of oil palm plantations,” he said in a press release of the foundation.
Plantation owned and operated by the private sector dominated the oil palm-planted surface in West Kalimantan, at 1.09 million hectares while independent farmers only covered 413,000 hectares and state-owned oil plantation only accounted for 56,700 hectares, said Erlangga, a junior researcher with Madani Berkelanjutan.
“In the 2011-2018 period, private company plantations in West Kalimantan underwent the most significant expansion of oil palm-planted areas, at 91,500 hectares per year while the oil palm plantation of smallholders only expanded by 19,700 hectares per years and those of state-owned plantation companies even shrunk by 770 hectares per year. This fact shows the imbalance in oil palm ownership in West Kalimantan,” Erlangga said.
A study conducted by Madani showed that even though often belittled because of its limited oil palm-planted surface, state-owned oil palm plantations in the districts of Landak and Sanggau had the highest productivity level compared to those of private company and smallholders.
In 2017, the productivity of state-owned plantations in those two districts reached around 3.3 ton per hectare while those of private companies in the rest of West Kalimantan, with the exception of Singkawang city, had a productivity of 2.2 million tons per hectares. Smallholder-owned oil palm plantation had the lowest productivity, at 2.1 million tons per year.
In 2018, the productivity of state-owned plantations in the two districts weakened to 2.9 ton per hectare but the figure was still higher compared to the 2.6 ton per hectare produced by private corporate plantations and the 2.2 ton per hectare of smallholders.
“Enhancing productivity is key, not expansion of oil palm plantation anymore. Another thing is the need to improve the management of existing oil palm plantations,” Erlangga said.
He added that the contribution of oil palm plantation so the development in rural areas in West Kalimantan was still far from optimum as reflected on the low index value for developing villages around oil palm plantations.
“Most villages near oil palm plantation have an Index of Economic and Environmental resilience that is low,” Erlangga said.
This happened even though there were already five regulations which made it obligatory for corporations to be responsible over the social and environmental aspects of communities around their plantations.
If oil palm is still hoped to contribute to economic development, especially at grass root level, then a major correction on current oil palm plantation management practices was necessary, the release said.