All that an oil farmer has to do is to harvest and deliver the fruits to the milling plant within 2-3 days after harvest. The earlier the delivery, the better because the quality of the oil depends on the condition of the fruits.
Harvesting does not also require much labor, as in sugarcane farming. This is the reason why many highly productive sugar-cane fields in Thailand are converted to irrigated oil palm trees to prevent farm labor shortages during harvest.
By the way, irrigated oil palm trees yield 10 tons higher. The added yield amounts to P75,000, much higher than the annual net income from irrigated rice farm.
Harvesting and post-harvest handling of oil palm is cheaper compared to coconut, rubber, and other crops. The cost of harvesting and delivering 1 ton of oil palm fruits to the milling plant is less than P500. This is just 7 percent of the gross sale if the price is P7,500 per ton.
But with rubber and coconut, farmers normally spend one-third of the gross sale for harvesting and processing, and that is P2,500 for every P7,500 of gross sale. In rice and corn farms, about 20 percent of the gross sales goes to harvesting, threshing and drying.
Compared to rice and corn, oil palm is less adversely affected by climate change. Complete crop failure can happen with rice, corn, and other field crops when moderate to extreme drought or flood occurs, but not with oil palm.
Because oil palm trees are heavy consumers of CO2 from the atmosphere, in the process they help reduce the “green-house effect,” which causes climate change.
Also, current techniques in oil palm production ensure zero waste management. For instance, the byproducts of milling are used to produce biofuel, biogas and electricity, which reduce dependence on petroleum oil from the Arab countries. So when the prices of petroleum products increase, oil palm farmers may benefit because chances are, the price of palm oil will also increase as it is used to produce biofuel.
Fruit crops like banana, durian and pummelo are prone to stealing, that many farms in Mindanao spend much for security. The good thing with oil palm fruit is that it is difficult to steal!
Oil palm farming generates and diversifies farmers’ economic activities for higher income particularly among small land-holders with 5 ha of landholding or less. That is why in communities of Southern Thailand where oil palm is a dominant crop, farming become vibrant, dynamic and progressive. This is because in oil palm farming, a farmer spends only one day every ten days for harvesting of ripe fruit bunches.
Another day is need for maintenance like ring weeding, leaf-pruning, and fertilization. Both activities are carried out in a cool and healthful environment under the canopy of the oil palm trees. As noted in Southern Thailand, the eight free days plus part of the high income of the farmer are used to develop other farming enterprises for added income right under his mature oil palm trees. After all, the environment under the oil palm trees is highly suitable for mushroom production, vermiculture for organic fertilizer production, raising of small ruminants like swine, goats, and sheeps, broilers and native chicken for game and food.
In many parts of Malaysia and Southern Thailand, oil palm farmers are raising “Pawakan”, a native chicken also found in Jolo and Basilan, for food and recreation as cock fighting for fun as betting is prohibited in Muslim communities.
Outside his oil palm farm a farmer engages in the production of other crops — rice, corn, fruit trees, fish culture, fishing in the lakes and other bodies of water, carpentry work, retail stores, etc. In communities where oil palm farming is prominent in Indonesia and Thai-land, rural enterprises become progressive, dynamic and vibrant. Farmers have the capacity to construct concrete houses. Cogon and nipa houses are things of the past in these communities. Oil palm farmers have the capacity to buy brand new household appliances, cars and other four-wheeled vehicles, personal goods and a variety of nutritious foods. In fact, in Southern Thailand eating with friends in the restaurant and parks in the evening is a favorite pastime of oil palm farmers.
It’s high time to give our field crop farmers in Southern Philippines the needed break. For years farmers have been engaged in back aching and rigorous farm activities of planting various field crops under the scorching heat of the sun. Not necessarily for food but for cash to support the other needs of the family. These farmers need assistance in utilizing a part or a whole of their farms to plant an easy-to-plant and maintain oil palm trees. Idle and underutilized lands largely infested by cogon should be reforested using oil palm trees both for food and climate change mitigation. Large areas grown to old and senile coconut trees should be replaced with oil palm trees.
A famous Canadian Agricultural Scientist, Dr. T.H. Fairhust was correct in saying that oil palm is “the great-est crop of Southeast Asia”. In Malaysia, Indonesia, and Southern Thailand, the rural populace are enjoying the prosperity brought about by high income in oil palm farming. Although Southern Philippines is a part of the world’s best area for oil palm farming, its populace is not enjoying this prosperity. This is mainly because the Philippine government has not promoted the planting of oil palm at the level similar to those being carried out by the governments of the three other countries mentioned above.
Oil palm farming can help bring prosperity to the impoverished communities of Southern Philippines with rich agricultural resources. The small landholders should be taught and provided with resources to plant oil palm trees similar to what is done in neighboring countries in the South. The prosperity of farmers in oil palm farming will likewise bring prosperity to the country as a whole. Oil palm farming should be nurtured to become a major type of crop farming in Southern Philippines.
The Secretariat – Philippine Palmoil Development Council, Inc
2nd Flr., Quality Appliances Bldg.
Alunan Highway, Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat
Email: [email protected]
Tel No. (064) 200-3881
author: Pablito P. Pamplona, PH. D., www.trc.gov.ph, photo from www.longevitylive.com