Palm oil industry eyed in typhoon-hit towns

At least 20,000 hectares of land in three typhoon-devastated towns of Davao Oriental’s eastern coast are dentified potential areas for cultivating oil palm.
This came from a team of expert agronomists and agri-business specialists from the Indo Food Company under Indonesia’s largest conglomerate — the Salim Group of Companies who visited the province in response to an invitation from Governor Corazon Malanyaon who is keen at tapping huge investment opportunities that will fuel economic activities in her towns.
Hisar Sihombing, an expert agronomist and soil scientist from the Indo Food, revealed that the topography, climate, and soil in the areas are favorable for the oil palm. The team identified three locations in Baganga with a combined total area of 14,500 hectares, Cateel with 4,000 hectares and Boston with 1,600 hectares suitable for the crop.
While the lands which used to be planted with coconuts now lay flattened and empty, Hisar Sihombing, said that now would be a perfect moment to shift to a more productive crop such as the oil palm.
The oil palm, he said, requires to be planted on a maximum elevation of 400 meters above sea level. He explains that the higher the elevation is, the thinner the soil becomes, thus, halting the growth of the crop. Climate is also a favorable feature in these areas as there are less dry spells and more wet months.
With these favorable environmental conditions, Sihombing hopes that the industry development will push through in the province.
Oil palm has the average gestation period of four years before farmers could start harvesting the fresh fruit bunches. While waiting for the crops to mature, the Indo Food suggests a scheme involving the company providing farmers with other cash crops for the waiting period.
Meanwhile, to fully and continuously benefit from the venture, Indo Food suggests implementing a staggered approach in planting which means continuously harvest throughout the year since planting is not done simultaneously. In terms of profit sharing, further negotiations are to be done should the investment push through.
While Davao Oriental is bent on exploring this big-ticket oil palm investment opportunity which will tap the province’s vast lands, it also intends to shift the economy away from a reliance on copra and establishing this alternative agri-based industry that is highly profitable for the local farmers and will give a boost to the province’s local economy. [PNA]
Governor Malanyaon is optimistic that embarking on a new highly-productive crop such as the oil palm will bring about economic surge, especially on the three typhoon-hit towns. She is also looking into expansion of the industry to other towns within the province as well as the other neighboring provinces. [PNA]