Tuesday, 6 April 2010

'New disease may cripple oil palm sector' warning

'New disease may cripple oil palm sector' warning

Published on: Tuesday, April 06, 2010 Daily Express, East Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu: The East Malaysia Planters' Association (Empa) on Monday said a relatively new disease named Ganoderma is causing considerable damage to the palm oil industry in Sabah.

Its Chairman, Othman Walat said from the organisation's experience, more than 35 per cent of the palms in a block could be terminated by the disease.

"Yield losses as high as 46 per cent have been reported (by players in the industry here)," he said at the Seminar on Ganoderma Disease of Oil Palm in East Malaysia officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

State Industrial Development Minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah represented Musa during the event.

Othman said oil palm is an important crop to the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.

In the case of Sabah, he said palm oil still remains the top export earner for the State through the collection of sales tax. Empa felt the need to seek the assistance of the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities.

He said Ganoderma could seriously affect the revenue of both the industry, Federal and State governments of East Malaysia.

"But in view of the fact that the disease is relatively new to East Malaysia, there is a need for more research and extension works to explore into its root cause and prescribe remedy," he said.

As a long term solution, Empa is contemplating to undertake an intensive joint research involving local universities namely Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Sarawak Malaysia (USM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Bintulu campus and the Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB).

According to Othman, one of the few proven methods to Ganoderma management is by sanitation measure during replanting.

He said the Empa feels an intense awareness among all involved in oil palm cultivation is crucial to avoid cultural practices that will aggravate the situation. Hence, the reason for the seminar, he said.

In addition, he said that the involvement of the State Government through the Department of Agriculture would be of great assistance to curb the disease faster.
He said Empa acknowledged the contribution of the MPOB in the training of some members of the organisation via a series of workshops conducted in Sabah and Sarawak.

"But the rapid expansion of the industry over here means there are many who may not be aware of this potential time bomb in their plantations," he said. In this respect, Empa is anticipating more workshops to address and guide the new comers in the industry this year.

Empa, since is formation in 1889, supports the Government's balanced approach of not only emphasising profit but also contribute to social responsibility.

Thus, the organisation would continue to advance the interest of the plantation industry in East Malaysia with a view to be able to co-ordinate, effectively address, resolve issues and propagate public understanding on plantation issues.
Further on Ganoderma, Othman said a sustainable solution to the disease would mean meeting the RSPO compliance standard, an imperative criterion to gateway to sell palm oil to the European Union (EU), United States and other countries.
He thanked Musa for the latter's support to the industry as well as the players.