Thursday, 19 February 2009

Palm Seedlings Sham in Aceh

February 18, 2009 The Jakarta Globe

Nurdin Hasan

The Aceh provincial administration will destroy at least 1.5 million oil palm seedlings after discovering they lacked official certification.

Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, speaking in Lhe Ue, in Aceh Besar district, where he was overseeing the burning of 165,000 seedlings, said the provincial forestry and plantation office had bought the low-quality seedlings from eight suppliers.

“Hopefully, this will serve as a lesson to businesspeople and the PPKS [Palm Research Center in Medan],” Irwandi told media.

“Now is the time to eradicate palm seed mafia. I’m certain this has been going on for some time, involving trillions of rupiah, not only in Aceh [but also in other regions in Indonesia]. Aceh holds a record in eradicating palm mafia,” he said.

Irwandi said his administration was committed to preventing the distribution of low-quality seedlings which, according to him, produce trees with lower life expectancies than the genuine product.

Irwandi did not name the suppliers or provide an estimate of losses to the state. He said police were investigating the case.

billion rupiah allocated to palm oil plan

Hanifah Affan, head of the forestry and plantation office, said seedlings were also burned in the districts of Bener Meriah, Southwest Aceh, North Aceh, Nagan Raya, Simeulue, South Aceh and Pidie Jaya by partners from the private sector who helped to procure the seedlings.

“Initially, some partners refused to destroy them as they had bought the seedlings, but the project manager threatened to take legal action if they refused,” Hanifah said.

“Finally, they were cooperative and agreed to destroy all uncertified seedlings, ” he said.

The seedlings were supposed to be distributed free to Acehnese as part of the local government’s efforts to create new job opportunities. The two-year project was to be carried out in 13 districts in the province at a total cost of

Rp 300 billion ($25.2). In 2008, the provincial administration bought 3.2 million seedlings.

The forestry and plantation office had been told to buy seedlings from government-sanctioned suppliers only as the government recognizes only eight suppliers throughout Sumatra.

But almost half of the seeds that were supplied by the eight vendors were later discovered to be fake.

The procurement of 1.5 million uncertified palm seeds was revealed after the office contacted the PPKS in Medan, North Sumatra, which declared that the seeds did not come from its seeding plantation.

Under a plantations law, palm seeds or other seeds that have not been certified by the PPKS Medan must be destroyed because of their low quality and productivity.

Sulaiman Abda, a member of Aceh’s administration, said the development of palm plantations for the Acehnese was conducted under a faulty system.

“In the first year, the procurement of the palm seeds should have been conducted, as well as surveying potential land sites and future seed recipients,” he said. “Then, in the second year, the land for the plantations should have been cleared.”