Indonesia: the rise of the politics of palm oil by Khor Yu Leng

Editor's note: I have been anticipating the rise of the politics of palm oil for Indonesia. I've been tracking the importance of smallholders to Malaysia's UMNO-BN in electoral politics for a few years now.

A few things are coming together for Indonesia:

a) The young BPDP/palm oil fund will become an increasingly contested area. There will be a political policy tussle on allocation of funds for independent smallholder replanting versus allocation for biodiesel subsidy. The latter goes directly to a handful of conglomerate quota holders, albeit for the purpose of supporting palm oil prices for all.

b) We have the coming of a more populist Presidential election in 2019 as the timing shift of the Presidential election to coincide with national legislative elections diminishes the previous system that let political party coalitions decide the Presidency. So we have Jokowi on big tours of Sumatra in 2017 and Kalimantan in 2018, to reach out to the rural voter-base.

c) Watch for the important smallholder associations like Apkasindo and plantation worker unions. While union leaders have tried to strike deals with politicians, these don't always work out such as recently on the minimum wage tussle.

Watch out for how this will affect the balance of political-economic power between the center and the periphery in Indonesia's decentralised political system. 

In the case of Thailand, the need to support domestic prices for oil palm smallholders has caused narrowing margins for millers, sometimes causing millers to shut down operations for a while.

On the allocation of BPDP funds:
On supporting palm oil farmers with replanting, seeds, land titles:

Deforestation and development: The hope of sustainable oil palm for Sri Lanka, Relief to plantations in Sarawak but NCR land claimants upset

Editor's note: With the rising push for corporate voluntary pledges to stop deforestation, the rise of concerns over smallholder development is no surprise. The baton of hectarage growth has earlier been handed from large corporate plantation groups to smaller corporations and smallholders. This is very evident in aggregate national data. WRI's report of a pick-up in deforestation in the broad down-trend in Brazil and Indonesia is interesting. Could this be a reaction to lower commodity prices? i.e. you need more production and area to hit your target income? Moreover, will palm oil supply-chain players be actually pressed to stop purchasing from sensitive zones and stick to their pledges for third party sourcing (certification targets 2018-2020)? Thus, if smallholders are discouraged from palm oil, will some turn other lower intensity (higher land use) activity? This would be perverse problem of this kind of voluntary sustainability policy leakage. How does REDD+ appear as a solution, so far? We'll keep an eye on this.

24 Nov 2017: The hope of sustainable oil palm for Sri Lanka

Opinion : Sustainable oil palm central to success of Sri Lanka’s plantation industry November 24, 2017 By Professor Asoka Nugawela: The superior potential of oil palm to reinvigorate the Sri Lankan plantation sector is undeniable. Growth in demand for palm oil in the world even surpasses that of tea and rubber. Unlike tea or rubber, palm oil is cheaper to produce and requires far less land, and far less investment. The only other close competitor for vegetable oil in Sri Lanka, coconut has a NSA and a COP of Rs. 40 and Rs.15 per nut respectively. However, coconut produces a yield per hectare (YPH) of only 7,000 nuts, whilst oil palm produces 18,000 kg per hectare annum.... In essence, oil palm is by far Sri Lanka’s most profitable crop. Coconut generates Rs. 175,000 per hectare per annum, while Tea and Rubber produce Rs. 45,000 and Rs. 50,000 respectively whereas oil palm generates Rs. 514,000 per hectare per annum.... Given the stark differences in the profit making potential of these crops, the only remaining question for the Sri Lankan plantation industry is whether we have the ability to establish and manage oil palm in a manner that is sustainable for all stakeholders and for the environment as a whole....

15 Oct 2017: Relief to plantations and landowners in Sarawak, but NCR land claimants wanted their land, not compensation; Africa agriculture neglect and land grabs

Land titles remain with LCDA but natives to receive compensation 14 Oct 2017 -- Yesterday, the Federal Court panel set aside the High Court order to rectify the title and ordered the state government and Kota Samarahan Land and Survey superintendent to pay compensation to the plaintiffs, with the amount to be decided by an inquiry. Met outside the courthouse later, a tearful Nyutan said he was unhappy with the decision. “We don’t want to get compensation. We want to have our land back. “This land was inherited from our ancestors and now we have lost it,” he said, adding that the villagers hoped for a better solution to land disputes.

Hunger in Africa, Land of Plenty by Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Anis Chowdhury SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 (IPS) -- African agricultural productivity has not only suffered, but also African agriculture remains less resilient to climate change and extreme weather conditions. Africa is now comparable to Haiti where food agriculture was destroyed by subsidized food imports from the US and Europe, as admitted by President Clinton after Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake....Despite its potential, vast tracts of arable land remain idle, due to decades of official neglect of agriculture. More recently, international financial institutions and many donors have been advocating large-scale foreign investment. A World Bank report notes the growing demand for farmland, especially following the 2007-2008 food price hikes. Approximately 56 million hectares worth of large-scale farmland deals were announced in 2009, compared to less than four million hectares yearly before 2008. More than 70% of these deals involved Africa.... In most such deals, local community concerns are often ignored to benefit big investors and their allies in government. For example, Feronia Inc – a company based in Canada and owned by the development finance institutions of various European governments – controls 120,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.... Most such deals involve land already cleared, with varied, but nonetheless considerable socioeconomic and environmental implications. Local agrarian populations have often been dispossessed with little consultation or adequate compensation, as in Tanzania, when Swedish-based Agro EcoEnergy acquired 20,000 hectares for a sugarcane plantation and ethanol production.
Land grabbing by foreign companies for commercial farming in Africa is threatening smallholder agricultural productivity, vital for reducing poverty and hunger on the continent. In the process, they have been marginalizing local communities, particularly ‘indigenous' populations, and compromising food security.

6 Jun 2017: Sarawak activist murder - accused walk free

Bill Kayong murder: Shock and grief at court after three of the accused walk free  June 6, 2017, by Cecilia Sman

5 Jan 2017: More pendulum swing back in 2017? Mongabay stories on Brazil Amazon mega-industrial waterways plan and Sabah forest deal. Push for legal logging harvest faces policy leakage.

Editor's note: 2H2016 there was market chatter on more Sabah forest deals, and now a write-up talks about an October 2016 sale of 100k ha there that worries NGOs. Also note the counter-trends: rising deforestation in Brazil and analysis that official data half reports tree losses (not covering land clearance in small pieces below threshold of monitoring by PRODES). For Indonesia, award of first-ever indigenous land rights (13k ha) to 9 communities; with worries of deforestation to come.

Sudden sale may doom carbon-rich rainforest in Borneo 2 January 2017 / John C. Cannon - Home to critical watersheds and orangutans, a 101,000-hectare forest located in the Trus Madi Reserve was on track to serve as a blueprint for a conservation economy, before the rights to log it were sold in October.

Temer government set to overthrow Brazil’s environmental agenda 21 December 2016 / Sue Branford and Maurício Torres -- Brazil’s powerful agribusiness lobby (bancada ruralista) is pushing a raft of new laws to set back environmental and indigenous protections by 30 years.... A catastrophic setback to environmental and indigenous protections was narrowly averted last week when quick action from two federal deputies prevented the agricultural lobby from forcing passage of bills to authorize construction of three mega-industrial waterways in the Amazon and elsewhere.... The Congress will likely pick up the bills again after the recess in February. They would authorize building many dozens of dams and industrial waterways in three river basins — PDC 119/2015 on the Tapajós, Teles Pires and Juruena rivers in the Amazon; PDC 120/2015 on the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers, also in the Amazon; and PDC 118/2015 on the Paraguai River.... In 2005, a similar bill was passed, fast tracking the Belo Monte dam and bypassing proper environmental evaluation. Today, Norte Energia, the consortium that built the Amazon mega-dam has been charged with environmental crimes, ethnocide and is under investigation for corruption.... Another bill working its way through the National Congress would completely gut the environmental licensing process for most infrastructure projects, while still another would take away hard won protections guaranteed to Brazil’s indigenous people in the 1988 Constitution....

Illegal logging shows little sign of slowing 30 December 2016 / Morgan Erickson-Davis -- A recent report finds regulation loopholes, an uptick in organized crime, and lax land rights are allowing illegal logging to thrive.“Forestry crime including corporate crimes and illegal logging account for up to $152 billion every year, more than all official development aid combined,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, one of the partner organizations supporting the assessment. ....It finds that bilateral trade agreements between producer and consumer countries – e.g., the European Union’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT) that requires timber products imported into the EU be legally harvested – have prompted shifts in the timber trade to less restrictive domestic markets. The researchers also found jumps in exports to India and China, which have less stringent regulations and are now the biggest importers of both legal and illegal tropical wood....

Jokowi grants first-ever indigenous land rights (13k ha) to 9 communities, 4 January 2017 / -- That movement still has a long way to go. The nine “customary forests” — known as hutan adat in Indonesian — acknowledged by President Joko Widodo’s administration last week encompass a total of 13,100 hectares (32,370 acres). But the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) has mapped more than 8.2 million hectares of customary lands it says belongs to the nation’s adat groups, as those who practice ancient modes of knowledge, belief, community and economy are called here.

5 Jan 2017:  Worries about Myanmar plantations expansion

The human cost of palm oil production in Myanmar - Aggressive expansion of plantations enacted in southern provinces largely ignoring environment and workers' rights. By Taylor Weidman | 04 Jan 2017

21 Dec 2016:  $3.3m in new grants to protect Kalimantan forests, 10 countries with the most protected areas (41-54% versus 14.8% for the world)

$3.3m in new grants to protect Kalimantan forests by The Jakarta Post December 14, 2016 -- The Tropical Forest Conservation Act Kalimantan (TFCA Kalimantan), a partnership program among the US government, the Indonesian government, the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, has approved 14 new grants worth $3.3 million for local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Indonesia. The US Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement on Wednesday that the NGOs would work with forest-dependent communities to conserve tropical forests, protect natural resources and wildlife and improve livelihoods....

10 countries with the most protected areas by Melissa Breyer,  December 14, 2016 -- As of now, a mere 14.8 percent of the world’s total land enjoys protected status; which is actually a step-up from 1990 when it was just 8.2 percent. Surprisingly, one of the world’s leading oil exporters took first place for percentage of land designated as protected. Countries with the most protected areas
1. Venezuela (53.9 percent of total land area)
2. Slovenia (53.6)
3. Monaco (53.4)
4. Bhutan (47.3)
5. Turks and Caicos Islands (44.4)
6. Liechtenstein (44.3)
7. Brunei Darussalam (44.1)
8. Seychelles (42.1)
9. Hong Kong (41.8)
10. Greenland (41.2)

12 Dec 2016: Deforestation increasing in Brazil, Are Brazil's Deforesters Avoiding Detection?

Editor's note: Did Brazil's official PRODES data underestimate 900,000 ha of deforestation? Read Conservation Letters, Are Brazil's Deforesters Avoiding Detection? by Peter Richards et al. 

With deforestation increasing in Brazil, will Norway ask for its US$1 billion REDD money back? Chris Lang  8 December 2016 -- On 29 November 2016, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) released its estimate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon for the period August 2015 to July 2016. It’s not good news. Deforestation increased by 29% compared to the previous year.... The actual area deforested is even largely. A recent study in Conservation Letters found that Brazil was under-reporting deforestation rates in its official figures. The study found that about 9,000 square kilometres of forest was cleared between 2008 and 2012 without the deforestation showing up in the official figures.... Part of the problem is that the Brazilian Amazon by Satellite Project (PRODES) excludes areas of less than 6.25 hectares. Leah VanWey, co-author of the research and senior deputy director at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, said... We showed that while deforestation in large plots of primary rainforests has declined, it has expanded in these areas not tracked by PRODES....In an article in Nature, Jeff Tolleson quotes Paulo Barreto, a senior researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment, as saying that the size of the forest tracts that are being cleared is increasing. Tolleson notes that this is “a sign that the major players are investing in illegal deforestation”.....

Bad news from Brazil: Deforestation rates are going up and are likely to go even higher Chris Lang in Brazil 24 November 2016

Are Brazil's Deforesters Avoiding Detection? by Peter Richards, Eugenio Arima, Leah VanWey, Avery Cohn, Nishan Bhattarai First published: 7 November 2016 -- Abstract: Rates of deforestation reported by Brazil's official deforestation monitoring system have declined dramatically in the Brazilian Amazon. Much of Brazil's success in its fight against deforestation has been credited to a series of policy changes put into place between 2004 and 2008. In this research, we posit that one of these policies, the decision to use the country's official system for monitoring forest loss in the Amazon as a policing tool, has incentivized landowners to deforest in ways and places that evade Brazil's official monitoring and enforcement system. As a consequence, we a) show or b) provide several pieces of suggestive evidence that recent successes in protecting monitored forests in the Brazilian Amazon may be doing less to protect the region's forests than previously assumed.... PRODES deforestation diverged from other deforestation indicators after 2008. From 2002 to 2008, PRODES estimated that, on average, approximately 19,000 km² of forests were lost annually in the Amazon Biome. Deforestation was highest from 2002 to 2005, when forest loss rates exceeded 20,000 km² per year. Rates then fell over the course of 2006–2008 to approximately 10,000 km². After PPCDAm ii, they fell even further to 5,000 km² per year. ... From 2002 to 2008, the GFC data estimated that, on average, about 20,000 km² of forests were lost per year. Just as with PRODES, GFC recorded the highest forest loss rates during the early part of the decade. Rates then dropped in 2006 and 2007, to approximately 15,000 km² per year. However, loss rates did not drop to the same extent as the PRODES estimates after 2008. From 2009 to 2013, deforestation rates in the GFC data remained around 10,000 km² per year, or roughly double PRODES levels. Significant deforestation spikes occurred in 2010 and 2012, when loss rates increased to approximately 15,000 km² per year..... The FIRMS data follow the GFC data. Fires were prolific during the early 2000s. The number of fire incidents reached a nadir in 2005, but fell to lower levels in 2006. From 2009 to 2013, the number of fires recorded per year fell, on average, fell to less than half of levels observed earlier in the decade. Significant spikes in fire incidents were observed in 2010 and 2012, the same years for which deforestation spikes were observed in the GFC data..... The largest discrepancies between the GFC and PRODES data were found in northern Mato Grosso, where a thriving soybean sector is creating high demand for land; and in northeastern Pará, where investments in cattle processing, soybean production (in the region around Paragominas), and palm oil production are transforming the region into one of the most rapidly growing rural economies in the Amazon (Figure 2). We argue that these areas are those where landowners would have both the greatest incentives to avoid detection, and be more likely to have knowledge on how to avoid the monitoring system. .... The greatest returns to opening new land may be in these higher valued regions in north-central Mato Grosso and in northeastern Pará. Landowners in these areas, presumably, would thus have had both the greatest incentive to continue opening land and more awareness with respect to which lands could be opened without triggering a deforestation observation. Smallholder farmers and ranchers, in contrast to their more capitalized counterparts, may not have had access to the same technical knowledge. They also would have had less incentive to avoid deforestation detection. Small farming areas are less likely to be subject to environmental enforcement, despite higher rates of forest loss (Godar et al. 2014; Schneider & Peres 2015; Richards & VanWey 2016).....

12 August 2016: Indonesia news links

Elephant population in Sumatra shrinks drastically  The Jakarta Post  Jakarta | Fri, August 12 2016

Only 5 Sumatran Tigers Left in Bengkulu's Mukomuko By : Usmin & Ratri M. Siniwi | on 2:03 PM August 05, 2016 -- According to Fernandi, one of the major causes is due to the major loss of habitat, leaving the tigers few places to hunt for food and driving them to hunt outside of conservation areas. Sumatran tiger habitat has been shrinking after decades of the palm oil plantation boom — which led to a land clearances — across Sumatra.

Hundreds leave home in palm oil conflict by Severianus Endi  The Jakarta Post Pontianak | Tue, August 2 2016 -- Hundreds of residents from several hamlets in West Kalimantan have fled their homes to avoid arrest over their alleged involvement in a conflict with an oil palm company operating plantations in the area. The residents from the area around the village of Olak-Olak in Kubu district, Kubu Raya regency, have reportedly escaped to regions in and around Pontianak City. In search of support, around 50 of them approached the West Kalimantan chapter of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in Pontianak on Monday to report the case. Some women were crying while carrying their children, who have not attended school for nearly a week.

30 July 2016: High Tropical Deforestation from Oil Palm Production reported 

Peer-Reviewed Study Finds High Tropical Deforestation from Oil Palm Production 28 Jul 2016 --- A new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found high levels of oil palm-driven deforestation over a 25-year period in Southeast Asia and South America, but relatively low levels in Mesoamerica (Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean) and Africa. Three of the countries studied – Ecuador, Peru and Indonesia – had the greatest levels of observed deforestation within sampled sites, with more than half of the oil palm grown on land deforested during the study period. The study by researchers at Duke University and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is the first to examine past deforestation and potential future deforestation and biodiversity impacts associated with oil palm plantations in 20 countries across the world. The study used satellite imagery to evaluate where oil palm plantations replaced forests from 1989 to 2013........The study’s key findings included the highest conversion rates of tropical forests to oil palm plantations in sampled areas in the following countries: Ecuador (60.8 percent), Indonesia (53.8 percent), Peru (53.1 percent), Malaysia (39.6 percent) and Brazil (39.4 percent).

Forests, species on four continents threatened by palm oil expansion July 27, 2016 by Varsha Vijay -- As palm oil production expands from Southeast Asia into tropical regions of the Americas and Africa, vulnerable forests and species on four continents face increased risk of loss, a new Duke University-led study finds.
Using 25 years of high-resolution Google Earth and Landsat satellite imagery, Vijay and her team tracked the extent of this deforestation in four regions: Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and Mesoamerica, which includes Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.... "Many past studies have focused solely on Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 80 percent of the world's palm oil. By evaluating deforestation caused by palm oil production in 20 countries across four regions, our study demonstrates that the biodiversity impacts of this expansion are very different from country to country and region to region," said Clinton Jenkins of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil..... "The palm oil industry has a legacy of deforestation, and today consumer pressure is pushing companies toward deforestation-free sources of palm oil," noted Sharon Smith of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who co-authored the study with Vijay, Pimm and Jenkins. "This research helps us understand where to focus on using government regulation and voluntary market interventions to shape oil palm plantation expansion in ways that protect biodiversity-rich ecosystems and prevent deforestation," Smith said. 
 Read more at:

27 July 2016: Austria study of satellite maps suggest palm oil could double without forest damage

Editor's note: Expertise in mapping studies seems focussed in Europe and North America. However, data has to be carefully verified. 

Land Used for Palm Oil Could Double Without Damaging Forests: Researchers By : Chris Arsenault | July 27, 2016 -- Researchers from the Austria-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) studied satellite maps from Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America to determine where the crop used to make vegetable oils and other consumer products could be expanded sustainably.  The findings follow criticism from campaign groups who say the expansion of palm oil plantations has destroyed rainforests and displaced local people from their ancestral lands.  An area larger than Uruguay, more than 18 million hectares (44.5 million acres) of land, is covered by palm oil plantations, up from six million hectares in 1990, IIASA said.  Expansion of the crop, which accounts for about 30 percent of all vegetable oil used worldwide, has been concentrated in biodiversity-rich tropical forests in Malaysia and Indonesia.....Satellite data shows an area of up about 19 million hectares onto which the industry could grow without damaging forests that are particularly valuable for biodiversity or storing carbon as means of combating climate change, IIASA said.  Globally, an estimated three million small farmers work in the palm oil business and this could rise above seven million if the industry is expanded sustainably, IIASA said. ...Reuters..

25 July 2016: Situating smallholders at the fore - need to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains,  the limited effectiveness of communal forestry, a holistic reappraisal of what is deemed sustainable

Situating smallholders at the fore - Empowering smallholders is essential for economic development – and to protect forests  Deanna Ramsay  19 Jul 2016 --  But the fact is that now companies are making commitments to source supply that is clean, that is deforestation free. And I think that’s one of the main issues that they’re struggling with is how to build these clean sources of supply that involve smallholders. But that is going to imply for them to build some kind of agreements with these groups of smallholders that are supplying these companies. So that’s the big issue. Because the majority of smallholders are independent smallholders, like in the oil palm sector in Indonesia.....I think what is needed is business models that are able to share those costs – share the cost, share the risks and share the benefits. Because in most of the cases you have business models that then transfer the costs to the producers that are upstream in the supply chains. So they are the ones who pay for the cost. In an ideal situation, the companies also should be able – if they are targeting deforestation free in markets – they should be able if there is some reward to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains.... So the smallholders can also benefit or receive some compensation on the costs that they are investing in improving the production systems. But that is still an open question, and we don’t know if that’s going to work in that way....

Community forestry in Central Africa: Has it been a success? New book draws lessons for participatory resource management in the Congo Basin 21 Jul 2016 -- ).....There are several factors that explain the limited effectiveness of communal forestry: (i) reforms to the forestry sector in Central Africa in the mid-1990s favored industrial concessions and community forests, (ii) the development of communal forests was never a fundamental challenge or stake for Central African states or for technical and financial partners, and, (iii) in countries like Cameroon where decisive experiments have been carried out, the relatively high cost of the forest acquisition process has prevented many decentralized territorial units from adopting this management system independently.........

Wood fuel not as bad for the environment as previously thought Jack Hewson  18 Jul 2016 -- .....“We’re saying that the studies that have been published so far have not been adequate to inform policy,” she said. “You find that most of the papers are either looking at the environmental factors and making broad conclusions from that, or the health factors where wood fuel is causing lots of respiratory disorders, and then there are those who are focusing on the economic aspects. But you don’t have studies that try to look at all of these issues together and, most importantly, at the trade-offs among them.”...In partnership with the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), CIFOR has commissioned a number of systematic reviews as part of its Evidence-Based Forestry Initiative, including Cerutti and Sola’s research on wood fuel....“In this regard, we are now seeing a holistic reappraisal of what is deemed sustainable,” said Cerutti

7 July 2016: Olam Palm Gabon and Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment recommend 108-118 tC/ha threshold for development with 1:2.6 set-aside to development area ratio, Scientific American article on HCV, 97% of 1.2 billion tons CO2E due Indonesia Haze Crisis 2015 

Editor's note: Readers reckon that set-aside areas may suit for low impact logging operations with FSC, so that oil palm and timber can co-exist with the needed certifications / sustainability schemes on both commodities with business synergy. The logging and oil palm link is well established especially for large concessionaires - the Malaysia FELDA large-scale developments in Pahang and Johore also featured revenues from timber, of which MARA, overseas timber business and local logging contractors/sub-contractors would have been part of the timber business.

CONSERVATION KEY TO CURBING EMISSIONS FROM OIL PALM AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA June 28, 2016  Featuring John Randolph Poulsen -- DURHAM, N.C. -- As oil palm production expands from Southeast Asia into Central Africa, a new Duke University-led study warns that converting Africa’s tropical forests into monoculture palm plantations will cause a significant spike in climate-warming carbon emissions. The authors urge regional governments to enact mandatory policies regulating which forests can be cleared and how much remaining forest must be set aside for conservation. “Our case study, which focuses on oil palm farming in the nation of Gabon, finds that converting even previously logged forest into oil palm plantations will lead to high carbon emissions,” said John R. Poulsen, assistant professor of tropical ecology at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.  “Clearing just 11,500 hectares of forest -- or roughly 28,400 acres -- would release about 1.5 million metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere,” Poulsen said. “That’s equivalent to the annual emissions of some small developing countries.” However, the new study finds that these emissions could be completely offset over 25 years if development were centered on forests that store less carbon and if a portion of every development had conservation set-asides. Poulsen and his colleagues published their peer-reviewed study June 24 in the journal Conservation Letters....They used field measurements and LiDAR satellite data to calculate forest carbon stocks -- the amount of carbon stored in trees -- and potential carbon emissions at the site of a 50,000-hectare palm oil plantation in Gabon. The plantation is being developed jointly by the Gabonese government and the agribusiness firm Olam International Ltd., to test if low-emissions palm oil development is feasible in the equatorial country on the Atlantic Ocean..... “First, we recommend establishing a nationwide carbon threshold of 108 to 118 metric tons per hectare. Only forests that store less than this density of carbon will be considered suitable for development,” Poulsen said. “Second, palm oil companies will also have to set aside enough land within a plantation -- roughly one acre for every 2.6 acres developed -- to offset emissions. “The precise set-aside ratio may vary by site, but 2.6 to 1 is generally the point at which carbon storage in the conserved forest will offset carbon loss in the rest of the plantation and achieve net-zero emissions over time,” Poulsen explained.... “Although our study considers only forest carbon, and not biodiversity or other ecosystem services, we estimate there is enough low-carbon forest in Gabon to achieve net-zero emissions while still permitting the nation to meet its palm oil production goals,” he said. Allowing industry to voluntarily adhere to these new guidelines or opt out of them is not an option, he stressed. “To succeed, this approach needs to be mandatory and implemented by the government with careful land-use planning and strict enforcement.”   Support for this research came from Olam Palm Gabon and Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment....; CITATION: “Reducing Carbon Emissions from Forest Conversion for Oil Palm Agriculture in Gabon,” Mark E.H. Burton, John R. Poulsen, Michelle E. Lee, Vincent P. Medjibe, Christopher G. Stewart, Arun Venkataraman, Lee J.T. White. Conservation Letters, June 24, 2016. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12265

Conservation to Compensate Carbon Emission Essential in Gabon  June 30, 2016

EU TIMBER REGULATION: As a major global supplier of timber products from various origins, Olam International Ltd is committed to sustainable forest management practices and third party verification of all wood sourced from outside our operations.,

Olam To Divest Timber Assets In Gabon For US$18.0 Million, Singapore, January 24, 2014 -- entered into an agreement with a consortium of Chinese investors to sell part of its forestry and saw milling assets in Gabon for a gross consideration of US$18.0 million.... The divestment, which is a part of Olam’s revised strategy to restructure the Wood Products portfolio, includes the sale of two saw mills in the Makokou region of Gabon, 2.5 hectares of land in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Nkok, Gabon and associated forestry concessions. - See more at: (note: search of company website does not indicate any further divestment of Gabon timber business)

Can Oil Palm Plantations and Orangutans Coexist? Companies are partnering with environmental groups to aid the red apes, but results are elusive  By Melati Kaye on June 30, 2016 -- This lush portion of the plantation should be ideal habitat for orangutans. I have not spotted any, but according to Hendriyanto, my guide from the plantation’s conservation team, an estimated 14 of the red apes do indeed live here. .... Surveyors came up with that number by counting orangutan nests in this 657-hectare so-called "High Conservation Value" (HCV) enclave within the 18,000-hectare plantation. The population density survey and the HCV set-aside are required of oil palm companies like Hendriyanto's employer, Ketapang-based PT Kayung Agro Lestari (PT-KAL), for eco-compliance certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a consortium that has been setting the industry's sustainability standards since 2004..... But one step outside this refuge lies a very different scene: blistering tropical heat and regimented rows of spiky oil palm trees spread over miles of ochre mud that turns to deep, rutted puddles after a drizzle. Borneo's forest-to-plantation ratio has plummeted in recent decades. Satellite data show that the island's forest cover dwindled from 76 percent to a mere 28 percent between 1973 and 2010. Deforestation has only accelerated since then, especially in 2015, when fires smoldered across 1.3 million hectares of peatland for months on end.... From an ape's point of view, the plantation vista presents an uninhabitable hellscape. From an industry standpoint, it is a prospect of burgeoning revenue. Half of the vegetable oil consumed around the world comes from oil palms. According to data from USDA and the World Bank, the global market for palm oil and palm kernels is around $47 billion..... To forestall such a public relations disaster, industry-leading oil palm companies have tried a series of conservation initiatives to show that orangutans and plantations can co-exist--hence the RSPO, the HCV enclaves and the relocation of orphaned apes to rehabilitation centers for later reintroduction back to the forest. The latest scheme is to interlink isolated HCV patches with migration "corridors" so that orangutans and other forest-dwelling creatures can disperse in accordance with their natural behaviors.... To implement such measures (and garner some third-party credibility), many companies have partnered with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But results have so far been elusive. Part of the problem is a general lack of data. But companies can also ignore or skimp on the NGO recommendations. Compounding matters, the RSPO and its ilk are agonizingly slow at investigating complaints, and their findings are no more than advisory, with no force of law. Moreover, Indonesian licensing laws can undermine conservation by reallocating forest leases of companies that do not exploit their allotted tracts fully or quickly enough. And with RSPO covering barely a fifth of the world’s palm oil operators, there is always a queue of wildcat planters ready to take up rescinded leases....

On land and in space, understanding the impacts of fires. To measure greenhouse gas emissions from the fires in maritime Southeast Asia in 2015, a variety of methods and expertise coalesced DEANNA RAMSAY   28 Jun 2016 -- The study’s authors determined that the carbon emissions released by the fires in September and October 2015 of 11.3 million tons per day were higher than those of the entire European Union, which daily released 8.9 million tons over the same period.....The widespread landscape fires in parts of Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua last year generated noxious smoke and haze affecting millions – and international attention – and the team on the ground was the very first to assess the emissions from actively burning peatland..... “There have been some isolated studies before where people artificially set fires in the lab to try to understand the chemical characteristics of peatland fire smoke in Indonesia. But no one had done this on natural fires, and especially not on the kind of extreme fires seen in 2015. We are the first people to do that,” said King’s College London professor Martin J. Wooster, one of the study’s lead authors. The team used their measurements of ground-level smoke from burning peat to derive the emission factors, i.e. to understand how much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane is released for a particular amount of tropical peat burned. Satellites provided data on the heat output being radiated by the fires, as well as information on the amount of carbon monoxide present in the surrounding atmosphere. From this, the total carbon emissions were determined by combining the satellite measurements and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) modeling framework with the newly determined emission factors from fires around Palangka Raya – one of the hardest hit sites. The researchers concluded that 884 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in the region last year – 97% originating from burning in Indonesia. The corresponding carbon emissions were 289 million tons, and associated carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions 1.2 billion tons.....“This sort of modeling has only been possible quite recently. When we saw the fires start in the region – knowing that it was an El Niño year – we were able to quickly start analyzing the situation, and we started contacting others who could contribute,” said study lead author Vincent Huijnen of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, who works on the CAMS framework. Wooster concurred about the clarity of their calculations because of fresh technologies....He said, “We found that this was the largest single fire event in terms of carbon emissions from Indonesia since 1997. We can much more confidently make our calculations because of the new satellite, modeling and field instrument technology that is now available compared to 20 years ago.”.... For David Gaveau, also a CIFOR scientist and study co-author, the fires in 2015 were different because they were primarily on drained, idle peatland. “In 1997 the drought lasted longer, the fires were more severe and a lot more forest burned. In 2015, fires mostly burned on degraded peatland covered with shrubs and wood debris,” he said.... “The last year has seen the largest single year atmospheric carbon dioxide increase since records began in the 1950s, and we calculated that the fires burning in Indonesia made up a significant component of the increase over what is ‘normal’ in non-El Niño years,” Wooster said..... For Murdiyarso, good policy is key – and providing numbers related to the 2015 fires can help. With the Indonesian government’s Peatland Restoration Agency established following the fires last year, there is movement to avert future fires.......

Vast Peat Fires Threaten Health and Boost Global Warming. Largest blazes on earth smolder for months in Canada and Indonesia By XiaoZhi Lim on July 2, 2016

THESE FIRES ARE HUGE, HIDDEN AND HARMFUL. WHAT CAN WE DO? Smoldering peat gives off massive quantities of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, but the search for solutions is on. By XiaoZhi Lim, freelance science reporter based in Singapore.  June 28, 2016 -- June 28, 2016 — As forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, last month, a different sort of fire may have started beneath the ground. Peat, a carbon-rich soil created from partially decomposed, waterlogged vegetation accumulated over several millennia and the stuff that fueled Indonesia’s megafires last fall, also appears in the boreal forests that span Canada, Alaska and Siberia. With the intense heat from the Fort McMurray fires, “there’s a good chance the soil in the area could have been ignited,” says Adam Watts, a fire ecologist at Desert Research Institute in Nevada. Unlike the dramatic wildfires near Fort McMurray, peat fires smolder slowly at a low temperature and spread underground, making them difficult to detect, locate and extinguish.  ey produce little flame and much smoke, which can become a threat to public health as the smoke creeps along the land and chokes nearby villages and cities. Although they look nothing like it, peat fires are the “largest fires on earth.”And although they look nothing like it, peat fires are the “largest fires on earth,” says Guillermo Rein, a peat fire researcher at Imperial College in the United Kingdom....The boreal forests are thought to contain some 30 times more peat than Indonesia. Because they can smolder for weeks and months, sometimes even staying active underground throughout cold northern winters, peat fires emit on average the equivalent of 15 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to Rein — carbon that took thousands of years to sequester.... Rein recently received a five-year, €2 million grant from the European Research Council to develop a peat fire early warning system. He is trying to characterize the heat fingerprints of peat fires by replicating small peat fires in the laboratory and using infrared cameras to record the heat emitted. He hopes to use his findings to calibrate satellites specifically for peat fires, just as some motion sensors are calibrated to detect infrared radiation unique to humans.....Rein is also collecting the gases produced from his experiments and analyzing them for patterns that could become telltale warning signs of a growing peat fire. For example, the ratios of carbon monoxide or volatile organic compounds to carbon dioxide can be used to tell the difference between emissions from peat fires and those from combustion engines or power plants. These patterns could then be applied to handheld gas sensors or gas analyzers placed in drones, airplanes or buildings in nearby villages and cities to help detect peat fires....Once found, one problem to putting out peat fires is that peat soil repels water when it gets very dry, says Watts.... Adding a fire retardant to the water might help make water more effective at this. One example is Peat FireX, a plant-based powder developed in 2012 by Steve Sinunu, CEO of Texas-based EnvironX Solutions. When dissolved in water, it disrupts the strong hydrogen bonds between water molecules, making it easier for the water to penetrate soil. As the solution moves into the soil, it coats the peat to protect it from fire....Earlier this year, the Indonesian government adopted Peat FireX as a weapon against peat fires, according to Steve Sinunu and an independent company in Singapore who helped connect EnvironX with the Indonesian government....

Ravaged woodlands - Stricken trees provide clues about how America will adapt to global warming—but little hope that it can be averted   Jul 9th 2016 -- The growth of wildfires is a worldwide problem, with even bigger burns elsewhere. Siberia, Tasmania, Canada and Indonesia have seen record-breaking fires in recent years. According to Greenpeace, fire consumed over 7m acres of Russian forest in the year to May 23rd (the Kremlin offers much lower figures). The area of Canadian forest burning each year has roughly doubled since the 1970s; a wildfire near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, which started in May, has turned 1.5m acres of forest and 2,400 buildings to ash. Now heading north through Saskatchewan, the fire is reckoned to be Canada’s costliest natural disaster.

A new generation of forest managers in the Democratic Republic of Congo - A university on the banks of the Congo River is producing the next generation of experts on sustainable forestry.  Fai Collins 29 May 2016

Reserves need tweaks to withstand Amazon fire threat - Despite their rapid proliferation, 'Sustainable Use Reserves' in the Amazon aren't living up to their hype- especially when it comes to reducing fire.  Samuel McGlennon 30 May 2016

Quantifying the drivers of South American deforestation - New research uses spatially and temporally explicit data to better understand deforestation trends in South America.  Samuel McGlennon 27 May 2016

What’s Driving Deforestation Now? Doug Boucher, scientific adviser, Climate and Energy | April 14, 2016

The challenges of conserving tropical forests - From industrial concessions to community forests, new research looks at what constitutes responsible forest management TARA LOHAN  29 Apr 2016

Switching swidden to agroforestry – a small intervention with big potential in West Java By converting to agroforestry, farmers in Indonesia could reap major environmental, economic and social benefits. KATE EVANS 26 Apr 2016

12 December 2015: High Carbon Stock study by Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto - companies and Sabah to test it out; CIFOR REDD+ links and Indonesia REDD handover to FORDA

Sabah To Test High Carbon Stock For Sustainable Oil Palm December 11, 2015   KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- The Sabah Forestry Department has committed to test the High Carbon Stock plus (HCS+) methodology for sustainable oil palm development in six months following the release of the HCS+ study's findings.  "We are very keen to pursue the offer from the Sabah Forestry Department which indicated that this would be very helpful for them.
 "This shows that the state is very committed towards sustainable palm oil and a sustainable economy," said Forum for the Future founder Director Jonathan Porritt....

CIFOR links:

New NASA Probe Will Study Earth’s Forests in 3-D, September 8, 2014, By revealing the 3-D architecture of forests in unprecedented detail, GEDI will provide crucial information about the impact that trees have on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Although it is well-established that trees absorb carbon and store it long-term, scientists have not quantified exactly how much carbon forests contain. As a result, it’s not possible to determine how much carbon would be released if a forest were destroyed, nor how well emissions could be countered by planting new trees.... "One of the most poorly quantified components of the carbon cycle is the net balance between forest disturbance and regrowth,” said Ralph Dubayah, the GEDI principal investigator at the University of Maryland. “GEDI will help scientists fill in this missing piece by revealing the vertical structure of the forest, which is information we really can’t get with sufficient accuracy any other way.”.. GEDI is scheduled to be completed in 2018. NASA’s Earth Venture Instrument program is part of the Earth System Science Pathfinder program, managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The GEDI team includes co-investigators from Goddard; Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts; the U.S. Forest Service, Ogden, Utah; and Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.

30 November 2015: Malaysia Pahang bauxite mining compensation plan for residents, DOE found high mercury levels in rivers

RM500-1,000 Monthly Compensation To Be Paid To Pahang Residents Affected By Bauxite Mining   30 November 2015 Chairman of the Bukit Goh Bauxite Coordination Committee, Datuk Abd Wahid Abd Manap had announced yesterday that the compensation will be paid out to individuals identified by the committee from funds provided by the bauxite contractors. "For now, we can offer RM1,000 compensation to each business operator and RM500 per month to each resident whose livelihood have been badly affected by the bauxite mining scourge.... According to media reports, bauxite mining activities have released heavy metal particles into Kuantan’s air and water supply, leading to an outbreak of respiratory problems and skin disease with the heavy particles even contaminating water treatment plants.

23 November 2015: Malaysia - Pahang DOE  finds high mercury levels in rivers near bauxite mining

DOE finds high mercury levels in rivers near bauxite mining sites, says Kuantan MP BY RAM ANAND Published: 23 November 2015

2 November 2015: Malaysia prepares for monsoon for flood prone Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu; Indonesia REDD-I partnership celebrates five years with handover to FORDA

All prepared for the worst by nicholas cheng, neville spykerman, andsyed azhar November 2, 2015; KUALA LUMPUR: The monsoon season is coming and the Fire and Rescue Department says it is prepared for things to go as bad as the east coast flood crisis last year. Over the year, officers in the flood prone states of Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu have been conducting water training in rivers to test their readiness to evacuate scores of people should water levels rise. Fire and Rescue Department assistant director-general (Operations Division) Datuk Soiman Jahid said assets had been placed in the states in preparation for the rainy season. “We are preparing for it to be as bad as last year. We have conducted water training for officers to be well versed in navigating floods and we have made sure our fire engines and boats are all in good working order in those states.

REDD-I partnership celebrates five years with handover to FORDA 26 Oct 2015; CIFOR’s Director of Communications and External Relations, John Colmey, officially transferred the management of to FORDA Director General, Henry Bastaman, during the International Conference of Indonesia Forestry Researchers (INAFOR) at the IPB Convention Center, Bogor.... (REDD-I), jointly developed by CIFOR and FORDA, has become Indonesia’s leading website for reliable information on forests, climate change and REDD+ in Indonesia. It was launched in 2011 after CIFOR and FORDA identified an information gap on climate change problems and solutions in the country. Now, the website attracts 6,000 visits per month and has 9,300 subscribers to its monthly news updates.

20 October 2015: NGO C4 raises concerns about Kelantan deforestation above cap of 5,960 hectares per  year after 2014 deadly floods displaced more than 200,000 people and 21 lost their lives

Anti-graft group fears Kelantan deforestation will breed corruption, cronyism Published: 18 October 2015 1:50 PM The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism is concerned over Kelantan's logging policies after the state approved additional land for logging. – Photo courtesy of Flickr, October 18, 2015.The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) has raised concerns that the deforestation in Kelantan, following policies by the state government, will breed corruption and cronyism. C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel in a statement today called on the Kelantan government to reveal if the multiple approvals awarded to a private company has breached the state's annual logging cap. She said that during the height of the flood crisis in Kelantan last December, Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob blamed “illegal land clearing and logging” for the devastating floods in the state, and added the government had always capped logging at 5,960 hectares a year, the standard set by the National Land Council. "So it comes as a shock to discover that Kelantan recently approved an additional 4,500 hectares to a private company for logging, while 9,000 acres (3,642 hectares) are to be used for oil palm planting." - See more at:

Kelantan deforestation policies need urgent answers – Cynthia Gabriel Published: 18 October 2015 2:00 PM It was only last year that the great floods – dubbed the worst flood in Malaysian history since 1971 – hit Malaysia from December 22, 2014 to January 3. More than 200,000 people were displace while 21 lost their lives. At the height of the crisis, Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob had then blamed “illegal land clearing and logging” as among the causes for the devastating floods in the state. He claimed the government had always capped logging at 5,960ha a year, the standard set by the National Land Council...... In his statement, Husam claimed that the private companies had obtained several approvals from the state government, raising the question if only selected crony companies are benefitting from the state’s generosity. - See more at:

19 October 2015: CIFOR - Can we trust country-level data from global forest assessments? CIFOR, USAID to Conduct Research on Zero-Deforestation Policy

Palm oil company caught destroying primary forest in endangered ecosystem  Tuesday 13 October 2015 by - RAN photo deforestation lesuer Non-profit forest group, Rainforest Action Network took pictures of the forest, which it says was cleared by palm oil company PT Tualang Raya in August 2015 in the Leuser Ecosystem in northern Sumatra. Image: Paul Hilton/ RAN

Palm oil plantations devouring forests in West Africa Global Information Network |   September 29, 2015,  newly released study has found that trees covering an area twice the size of Maine were cut down worldwide in 2014. But, the biggest threat to forests is looming over West Africa. Governments there have been buckling to pressure to convert “vacant” land and sell off forests for more profitable uses, namely palm oil plantations—a key ingredient in shampoo, toothpaste, ice cream, floor polish and many other foodstuffs and cosmetics. By 2020 global demand for palm oil is expected to double and then triple by 2050

CIFOR, USAID to Conduct Research on Zero-Deforestation Policy 18 October, 2015 | 13:38 WIB TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has teamed up with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct a research on the implication of palm oil companies’ commitment to forest and landscape in Indonesia. Steven Lawry, the director of CIFOR’s Forests and Governance Research, said that one of the research topics was related to the evaluation of zero-deforestation policy made by large-scale oil palm companies. The research, Lawry said, was aimed at answering the most urgent questions that affect forest governance in Indonesia. “This includes evaluating the zero-deforestation policy pledged by huge palm oil companies and understanding how they can ensure access for farmers to a supply chain that is free of deforestation,” Lawry said in a press release as quoted by on Sunday, October 18, 2015.

Fire & haze in Indonesia: Research and resources 9 Oct 2015 ; Forest fires occur in Indonesia every dry season. However, the haze that spreads to other countries is no longer restricted to drought years, and has become increasingly frequent due to ongoing deforestation of peatlands – with profound health and economic impacts across Southeast Asia. There are no easy solutions. The complex factors involved in every fire mean the problem goes far beyond who actually lights the match. That’s why the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has collected its work on fire and haze in Southeast Asia. The new site explains the context, impacts and history of this ongoing crisis – drawing upon cutting edge science and research. See the full collection at

Can we trust country-level data from global forest assessments? DG’s Column by Peter Holmgren - Significant differences exist between the FAO's Global Forest Resource Assessment and the Global Forest Watch results.... against what reference should we monitor progress towards targets expressed in these commitments? And do we have the processes in place to deliver accurate findings? In an earlier article I compared attempts to assess changes in the global forest with the story about blind men and the elephant. Differences in methods, definitions, completeness and field verifications inevitably led to entirely incomparable results between Global Forest Watch and the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment. These results are widely communicated and used as a reference in many political and economic analyses. In fact, there are few alternative sources of information on global forest change....To make the data easier to digest, I’ve extracted the 29 countries that had more than 20 Mha forest in 2005, according to FRA 2005. Together, these countries represent about 85% of the world’s forests. Their total forest area change in the period according to FRA is -2.2 Mha/yr, and the “tree cover loss” in GFW 16.4 Mha/yr. See the data table here. Going country by country, it is clear that the discrepancies are caused by quite different situations on the ground. I decided to subjectively divide the 29 countries into five categories in an attempt to highlight why these gaps are so significant. Category 1. Complete contradiction – countries where FRA shows a stable or increasing forest area, whereas GFW reports major tree cover losses. Includes: Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Gabon, India, Malaysia, Russia, Sweden and the United States, representing about half of the world’s forests. – FRA 2015: total gain of 2.4 Mha/yr – GFW: total loss of 9.6 Mha/yr...

One wicked problem, three major challenges - How to stop deforestation while boosting benefits for smallholders and meeting market demand?  by Pablo Pacheco Friday, 25 Sep 2015; To achieve zero deforestation, new ties need to be woven between different levels of government, the private sector and civil society. But in order to act on private-sector commitments, incentive systems and regulations that are reinforcing old patterns first need to be untangled. Beef and soybean production are the main drivers of deforestation in Brazil, and oil palm expansion threatens Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. These two countries have the largest forest areas in the world – and the largest forest losses over the past five years. Powerful industry and multi-stakeholder groups that have an extensive supply base in Brazil and Indonesia signed the New York Declaration on Forests in 2014, pledging to make their supply chains deforestation-free by 2030. The Indonesian government signed the declaration; Brazil did not, although some of its subnational governments did.

CIFOR DG: Seeing the big picture on the world’s forests By: GLF Committee By Peter Holmgren, CIFOR Director General... This week we have the opportunity to compare different assessment of the world’s forests. FAO presents the results of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 (FRA 2015) at the World Forestry Congress in Durban. Global Forest Watch has released new global satellite observations of tree cover reductions in 2014. And Nature has published an article describing over 400,000 field plots from national forest inventories that were used to count all of the world’s trees.
So, what do these different studies have to say about the forest resources of the world and how they change?...

Kissing livelihoods and ecosystems goodbye — the very real threat of 'fake forests' in Africa  15 Sep 2015 09:25|Samantha Spooner; Planted forests have been increasing in Africa at a rate of 0.2 million hectare a year--to the benefit largely of the commercial plantations....This culminated in a protest on September 10 in Durban, when over 3,000 people took to the streets as part of an action against “fake forests”. The march concluded with Greenpeace executive director, Kumi Naidoo, handing over a 100,000 signature petition against plantations to the WFC Programme Manager Motsamai Nkosi. Fake forest threat. Since 1990, some 38 million hectares  of primary forest have been reported as modified or cleared. This does not necessarily mean that this forest is converted to other land uses. Primary forest, when modified but not cleared, changes into other naturally regenerated (secondary) forest and in some cases planted forest. Planted forest area has increased by over 110 million hectares since 1990, reaching a to al of 290 million hectare in 2015, and accounts for 7% of the world’s forest area. In the case of Africa, the amount of replanted forest increased by 0.2 million hectares per year from 2010, totalling 16 million hectares in 2015. What is of concern to the civil society groups is that even the FAO is not making enough of a differentiation between natural and planted forests and the impact this has on the ecosystems and local communities. For example, the FAO’s definition of ‘“forest” includes commercial plantations of fast growing trees.

16 October 2015: REDD and Indonesia peatland burning

Can REDD save Indonesia’s peatlands from burning?   By Chris Lang 14 October 2015

11 October 2015: Cameroon REDD plan critiqued  "Poor communities will not simply starve in order to abide by rules agreed between the government and conservation organisations, violence by ecoguards already a problem

Cameroon’s REDD plans critiqued by NGOs ahead of World Bank meeting By Chris Lang 9 October 2015' .... ER-PIN focusses largely on reducing emissions from community agricultural activities. This makes Cameroon’s Emissions Reductions Program (ER-P) far less likely to succeed in reducing deforestation: Poor communities will not simply starve in order to abide by rules agreed between the government and conservation organisations; a programme which does not genuinely incorporate their rights and interests will see high levels of non-compliance (and therefore continuing deforestation and GHG emissions), most likely accompanied by significant levels of serious human rights violations (including violence by ecoguards, for example, something which is already a significant problem in Cameroon)....

30 September 2015: Norway to complete $1 billion payment to Brazil (in December) for protecting Amazon, CIFOR reports lucrative illegal market for crop land in Indonesia, reader points to northern ASEAN haze problem too 

Editor's note: I have this from a reader based in northern ASEAN "Asia has equally serious annual haze problems in other regions where there are no plantation crops (and no Singapore or KL nearby). Earlier this year Thailand's Chiang Rai airport was closed due to serious smoke haze, and public health warnings were issued around Northern Thailand. I believe some areas were as bad as Singapore but largely unreported in international media. (In early 2015, many) hot spots were located in northern ASEAN.... (getting) much, worse with over 900 satellite marked hotspots and serious disruption of commercial aviation throughout the region... . At the northern limits of oil palm cultivation, normally around 10 degrees N , the sunsets are currently a spectacular red due to smoke haze drifting down from further north.  Much of northern Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia is often shrouded in smoke haze at this time of year, to the extent of sometimes closing airports. This is a normal dry season phenomenon which has nothing to do with oil palms ( although it is man-made, as seen from the many satellite hotspots). This is not to suggest that clearing land for new oil palm cultivation is not an important contributor to smoke haze.  But to identify oil palm cultivation as the main cause of smoke haze within Asia  is misleading.  And as we know, misleading information sometimes obscures an effective response."

Lucrative illegal market for crop land a key cause of fires: Researcher CIFOR  Published 28 September 2015 by David Fogarty Assistant Foreign Editor; Dr Purnomo said there is a well- established market for abandoned or conflict land, with land cleared by burning fetching a premium. Using excavators and other heavy equipment to clear the land is costly and time- consuming. "You need to understand that the fire and haze create a lot of money. Quite a lot of money. There is a market for burned land and also it is a way for cheap and quick land preparation for HTI (pulpwood) and oil palm," he told The Straits Times in an interview last week. "Because if you grab the land, the forest - it can be concession land or state land - you can sell it. My research shows that the price is around eight million rupiah (S$800) per hectare. But if you burn that land, the price will increase," he said. "Some people can claim that land and can sell to the network of people. And the buyers can be someone in Jakarta, Bogor, everywhere... It can be 10ha, 20 or even 100ha." Data shows mid-level investors can come from places outside Indonesia, such as Malaysia, he added. According to Dr Purnomo, the price per hectare is US$665 (S$950) after the land is slashed and cut. If the land is burned, the price goes up about US$200 per hectare: a more or less 30 per cent rise. "There is a market for people who mostly prepare for oil palm. You can imagine if they grow the oil palm, after three years, then the price of that land can reach US$3,077 per ha," he said, basing his research on land prices in Sumatra's Riau province.

Norway to complete $1 billion payment to Brazil for protecting Amazon by Green Business  |  Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:52am EDT Norway will make a final $100-million payment to Brazil this year to complete a $1-billion project that rewards a slowdown in forest loss in the Amazon basin, Norway's Environment Ministry said on Tuesday. Brazil had more than achieved a goal of reducing the rate of deforestation by 75 percent, the condition for the payments under an agreement for 2008-15 meant to protect the forest and slow climate change, it said. The remaining cash would be paid before a U.N. summit on climate change in Paris in December, the ministry said. Since 2008, Norway has paid about $900 million to Brazil's Amazon Fund.  "Brazil has established what has become a model for other national climate change funds," Norwegian Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft said in a statement......

13 September 2015: A pick up in deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia? Development versus sustainable palm oil. Will Indonesia new subsidies undermine sustainability policies? Studying conservation policies and impacts on livelihoods. REDD+ probably cannot shift the tide against elite capture of forest benefits.

Editor's note: adds CIFOR DG posting on new data report releases recently on world forests

Trees covering an area twice the size of Portugal lost in 2014, study finds - Palm oil plantations are devouring forests rapidly worldwide, with west Africa becoming the new hot spot for tree loss, Wednesday 2 September 2015 04.00 BST; Data reveals that tree loss in Brazil and Indonesia is on the rise again – by 16% and 30% respectively since 2013 – despite longer term downward trends..

CIFOR DG: Seeing the big picture on the world’s forests - September 8, 2015 This post originally appeared on CIFOR’s Director General’s blog. By Peter Holmgren, CIFOR Director General..... This week we have the opportunity to compare different assessment of the world’s forests. FAO presents the results of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 (FRA 2015) at the World Forestry Congress in Durban. Global Forest Watch has released new global satellite observations of tree cover reductions in 2014. And Nature has published an article describing over 400,000 field plots from national forest inventories that were used to count all of the world’s trees.
o, what do these different studies have to say about the forest resources of the world and how they change?...
Data streams from dozens of sources help companies measure the risk of deforestation in their supply chains by Stacy Collett By Stacy Collett   Computerworld | Sep 2, 2015 3:30 AM PT; Today, about a dozen of the largest commodity traders and buyers in the world use the app.  The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) uses the tool for its alert and fire monitoring system to track fires and deforestation activity.  "Companies who are certified by RSPO had far fewer fire alerts" on their land, says Sanath Kumaran, head of impacts for RSPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. "During the last six months, only 10 fire hotspots occurred in RSPO-certified [land] compared to over 2,000 total fire hotspots in all other oil palm [land]."...

The Need for Development Is Missing in Defining Sustainable Palm Oil  Posted:  09/04/2015 11:51 am EDT  Robert Hii Sustainable Business Consultant; .... On the issue of carbon emissions, we in developed nations who make up a mere 20 percent of humans worldwide are responsible for a staggering 70 percent of global emissions . Simply put, if the intention to fight climate change on a global front is honest, developed countries including those in the European Union and North America would be mandating how much their citizens can consume. Doing this however, would likely mean high unemployment rates and poverty, which describes life today for millions of people in developing and underdeveloped countries.....In the case of palm oil, we "speak for the environment" by demanding that palm oil be produced sustainably. The popular definition of sustainable palm oil comes from Greenpeace and enjoys wide support by social media activists. Its definition focuses on protecting HCS or High Carbon Stock forests (meaning climate-change-fighting forests) while maintaining the rights of local peoples to either accept or reject palm oil plantations in their communities. The one factor they've failed to address is local communities that may want to clear HCS forests to grow palm oil. What is the solution there? Do we tell these villagers who own a few acres of primary forests that we will not accept any palm oil they grow as sustainable?... In the case of palm oil, we "speak for the environment" by demanding that palm oil be produced sustainably. The popular definition of sustainable palm oil comes from Greenpeace and enjoys wide support by social media activists. Its definition focuses on protecting HCS or High Carbon Stock forests (meaning climate-change-fighting forests) while maintaining the rights of local peoples to either accept or reject palm oil plantations in their communities. The one factor they've failed to address is local communities that may want to clear HCS forests to grow palm oil. What is the solution there? Do we tell these villagers who own a few acres of primary forests that we will not accept any palm oil they grow as sustainable?....

Forestry for a sustainable future – Making a difference beyond agreements 4 Sep 2015 BY Peter Holmgren; ....The WFC is considered the world’s most significant forestry event, organized by FAO every six years together with a host country. At 89 years old, it is also a long-standing tradition within the international community. The first congress was held in Rome in 1926, and Jakarta hosted the 1978 edition. This year, the WFC will be held in Africa for the first time. ..... 

Will Indonesia’s new palm oil subsidy undermine no-deforestation push? 1st September 2015 / Philip Jacobson & Sapariah Saturi - Officials are selling nascent CPO Fund on sustainability grounds, but experts fear it will do more harm than good... • Questions remain about whether the CPO Fund will carry environmental safeguards and how its resources will be divided between its two main purposes: helping farmers increase their yields and subsidizing biodiesel. • A senior adviser to the energy minister worries the subsidy, if administered haphazardly, could throw an unfortunate lifeline to the dwindling market for palm oil from deforestation, peatland coversion and land grabbing. • The man who designed the fund says it's all about sustainability because it will reduce dependence on foreign petroleum and shore up flagging palm oil prices.

Can REDD+ shift the tide against elite capture of forest benefits? Probably not  25 Aug 2015 BY Esther Mwangi, Isla Duporge and Krister Andersson; REDD+ is the largest coordinated international attempt to reverse the trend of deforestation and forest degradation globally. It remains one of the most dominant items on the agenda of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)....The lack of evidence from projects where participants are rewarded for performance means that there are few empirical lessons to draw from at this stage in REDD+ development. Criticism has been levied at REDD for unintentionally exacerbating existent inequalities; findings show that when tenure rights (de jure and de facto) are legally defined and secure in practice, this will allow for a more equitable benefit sharing. A recent study using two large datasets explored how tenure rights affect benefit sharing. The first dataset was drawn from International Forestry Research and Institutions and comprises 582 forest   oduct records across 350 user groups in 14 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This work shows that where collective rights for harvesting forest products are secure, the benefits of these products are more equally distributed among participating individuals. However, this finding is dependent upon the level of ethnic diversity within the harvesting group. Where there are higher levels of ethnic diversity, lower equity is found in benefit distribution and vice versa. This implies that REDD+ projects in areas with high ethnic diversity need to enforce additional measures to prevent elite capture by privileged ethnic groups. ...

Multiple ways for Congo Basin forests to flourish and deliver: study  24 Aug 2015 BY Harry Pearl; ...Providing forest users with clear incentives to work together could reduce conflict and improve the management of Central Africa’s timber concessions, according to a new study....
Canopy commerce: forest conservation and poverty alleviation, Published 03 Feb 2012; Innovative approaches for protecting the future of Sierra Leone’s Gola Forest – globally important for its biodiversity and its carbon reserves – are being developed by a collaboration of conservation agencies and University of Cambridge researchers. Our goal is to find a mechanism by which richer countries can help one of the poorest countries in the world protect its nature at the same time as improving the livelihoods of the local communities. Dr Jeremy Lindsell (RSPB) Gola Forest, situated at the westernmost tip of a once extensive swathe of forest that stretched a thousand kilometres from Sierra Leone to Togo, is classified as a biodiversity hotspot of global significance. Its 71,000 hectares are home to over 330 species of bird, including the rare White-necked Picathartes and Rufous Fishing Owl, more than 500 species of butterfly, and a long list of threatened and endangered plants and animals...After a return visit for a follow-up survey, the researchers are now analysing the data, with results expected early in 2012. “All in all, the project will provide the first detailed formal policy evaluation of a major conservation programme,” said Kontoleon. “The results should allow us to derive reliable inferences on the livelihood and behavioural impacts of conservation policies.” - See more at:

Felda smallholders: Windfall for rubber smallholders - Malaysia. Felda-Eagle High Plantations deal and Felda housing project in the news

LMC report on about Felda smallholders, download here "Consulting Report 12 – The Felda case study"

Key writers are Khor Yu Leng, Dr. Johan Saravanamuttu and Deborah Augustin. We also had a good session with Colin Barlow at his seminar talk on Felda last week, with photo below.

Seminar on Felda by Dr. Colin Barlow at IKMAS, UKM, Bangi 16 April 2015. About Dr Barlow:; and remarkably, his NGO is helping 12,000 smallholders in eastern Indonesia - East Nusa Tenggara. I am sure he'll have a lot of practical implementation knowledge that he could share with the palm oil sector seemingly struggling with smallholder projects. He mentioned cocoa smallholders working with a US chocolate manufacturer.

A teaser, on Felda settler income outcomes (LMC - Khor, Saravanamuttu & Augustin, upcoming 2015): "Based on all Felda schemes, incoming settlers data shows that 40.1% had an income of RM100  or less, and 85.4% of settlers had an income of less than RM200. Only 9.8% of settlers had an income of more than RM200; from this percentage only 7.8% had an income between RM200-RM300 a month while only 0.2% had an income of RM500 or more a month. Overall, most Felda settlers had low income rather than no income prior to entering the Felda schemes (Bahrin, Perera & Lim, 1979, p. 203). The Felda project was specifically designed to initially target RM300 minimum monthly income. National settler net monthly income outcomes from oil palm plots (1979-2005 average): 4.1 ha, RM857; 4.9ha, RM905 and 5.7 ha, RM1,166 (which excludes labour cost; Bahrin and Lee, 2006, p.37); and an estimated RM 1,800 per month in 2014 from 4 ha oil palm entirely outsourced to Felda Technoplant i.e. including labour cost (Barlow, 2015a). Thus, delivering solid outcomes on primary income goals."

12 Feb 2017: Felda news items

New Felda chief targets turnaround in one year  FEB 8, 2017 - Five men, including two former senior officials of Felda, being remanded on Jan 25 to help with investigations into a caviar farm project in Pahang

Now Shahrir says Felda didn't lose RM4.3b as reported  Published Today 7:38 pm -- "No money is lost. From the RM6 billion received when Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd was listed, we spent RM1.7 billion for Felda settlers to pay each family RM15,000.... ............ "The balance of RM4.3 billion was used for various reasons. Felda made one-off payments to the governments of Sabah (RM300 million), Pahang RM250 million, housing loan for Felda settlers RM400 million, management expenses RM883 million plus investments in property, both here and foreign countries, to buy shares and many others," he said. Shahrir was commenting on reports in a number of news portals that claimed RM6 billion received by Felda after the FGVH listing has not been accounted for. ........ He said RM1.438 billion was invested in property, namely in Bukit Katil, Malacca for RM304 million, Grand Borneo Hotel in Sabah (RM86 million), Grand Plaza Service Apartment in London (RM500 million), Institut Penilaian Negara (INSPEN) building (RM225 million) and Iris Corporation Berhad shares (RM110 million). Shahrir said the RM1.438 billion invested in the service sector, especially property involving hotels, was to ensure long-term investments that can be beneficial in the future. .... He said Felda had also purchased Felda Technoplant Sdn Bhd worth RM38 million while total accumulated loses for Felda amounted to RM108 million, involving the Transnovasi Project.....  Read more:

Jadi RM4.3 bilion ini mana pergi? tanya Shahrir MOHD FIRDAUS YON 11 FEBRUARI 2017

Felda chairman: Where did RM4.3b from listing go?

Felda's delayed 2015 financial statement to be announced soon BY RIZALMAN HAMMIM - 11 FEBRUARY 2017

Shahrir questions where RM4.3b from FGV had gone - Newly-minted Felda chairperson Shahrir Abdul Samad has questioned how RM4.3 billion in proceeds from Felda Global Ventures’ initial public offering (IPO) had been spent. “Felda received RM6 billion from the listing of FGV... From this amount RM1.7 billion was spent as windfall (for settlers). Read more:

PKR: Shahrir's RM4.3b revelation underscores need for RCI Today 5:37 pm

26 Jan 2017: Windfall for rubber smallholders - Malaysia

Editor's note: Earlier this month, I was sitting next to Dr Chee, renowned rubber expert and we were chatting about smallholders, and he said that rubber smallholders were doing well, and earning more than their palm smallholder brethren.

Windfall for rubber smallholders BY RUBEN SARIO 23 January 2017 -- A hike in raw rubber prices has led to a windfall for smallholders in the state, some of whom have seen their monthly income increasing by as much as RM7,000. State Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin said he was happy for the rubber smallholders. Yahya said the international price of Standard Malaysian Rubber 20 (SMR 20) had doubled from its low of RM4.70 per kg in early last year to current prices of RM9.68. He said the increase was due to a shortage in supply in the world market in the wake of flooding in southern Thailand. Yahya said the smallholder rubber prices in Sabah had increased from a low of RM1.50 per kilogram for cuplumps at 50% dry rubber content to a high of RM3.75 per kilogramme. “The increase has resulted in rubber smallholders earning between RM2,500 per month to RM7,000 per month. Read more at

14 Jan 2017: Felda-Eagle High Plantations deal and Felda housing project in the news

Editor's note: Interesting question if China is funding the Felda housing project via a small Singapore trading outfit.

4 Jan 2017, 31 Dec 2016: Felda-Eagle High Plantations deal in the news -- see here,

FELDA tangani isu PFI Oleh Ahmad Suhael Adnan 12 JANUARI 2017

Construction of Felda housing project to begin soon, September 06, 2016 -- The Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) plans to start the construction of single-storey terrace houses under the Felda New Generation Housing programme in one or two months, chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad said. He said under the programme undertaken nationwide, 11,530 residential units were scheduled to be built with a gross development value of RM1 billion, but experienced a delay in commencement due to a financing mechanism problem. "However, the issue was resolved as we opted for a private funding initiative via Putra Star Investment Holdings Pte Ltd. "We have appointed Terranova Builders Sdn Bhd as the housing developer," Mohd Isa told a press conference after the signing of an agreement between Putra Star, Terranova and Perumahan Felda Sdn Bhd  to facilitate the construction here today...

Felda Guna Putra Star Investment Kutip Dana Dari China? Soal Rafizi Published on 11 Jan 2017

Tell us the names of your housing contractors, Rafizi urges Felda By Chester Tay | January 3, 2017 -- On Dec 2, 2015, Rafizi requested a detailed disclosure of all contractors involved in Felda’s member housing projects, and deputy minister in Prime Minister Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim merely disclosed information regarding projects that have been completed. “For projects like the PGBF (Perumahan Generasi Baharu Felda), which have not been completed, he (Razali) did not provide the contractors’ name,” Rafizi said. According to Felda’s FY2014 financial statement, expected losses for Felda member housing projects skyrocketed to RM192.82 million, from just RM28.46 million in FY2013. “We have also contacted nationwide Felda activists to show us how many Felda housing projects have been abandoned, with nothing more than just a signage left behind,” he added. —

Rafizi Ramli was live. January 12 at 1:27pm · "Siapa di belakang syarikat Putra Star Investments ini?"

30 July 2016: Najib points to social mobility of Felda settlers' children, Crown Prince of Johor comment,  Felda investment unit, Rajawali likely to ink stake deal soon

PM: Children of Felda settlers in Klang Valley proof of social mobility BY KAMLES KUMAR

Felda taking money from the poor, alleges TMJ 28 Jul 2016 -- The Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, better known as TMJ for the Malay acronym of his royal title, has accused the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) of taking money meant for the people to enrich contractors and high ranking company officials....

Minister rebuts TMJ, says Felda must generate own income Published 28 Jul 2016 -- The government today denied allegations by Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim that the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) has deviated from its original purpose of eradicating poverty. Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters in Putrajaya that Felda was encouraged to generate its own income and be more financially independent.  “Felda has never deviated from its original path. Felda, from the beginning, has been restructuring the community (by) providing land for Malays who had no land to boost their income, and others. “When Felda engages in business, it does not mean that it is deviating from the original path. Felda, once upon a time, when it was formed, received a lot of financial assistance and support from the government,” said Ismail, as quoted by online portal Free Malaysia Today.

Felda investment unit, Rajawali likely to ink stake deal soon BY AFIQ ISAandIZWAN IDRIS 28 July 2016 -- PETALING JAYA: An investment unit of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) may sign an agreement for the acquisition of a significant stake in Indonesian planter Eagle High Plantations Tbk. According to sources, representatives from the Rajawali Group and Felda may be meeting in Jakarta next week for a signing ceremony to conclude the deal, which has been over a year in the making and has undergone several iterations. ...

Stock With Momentum: Felda Global Ventures Holdings By Asia Analytica / The Edge Financial Daily   | July 26, 2016

25 July 2016: Agenda to develop Felda, nation remains as govt’s top priority, Najib says 

Agenda to develop Felda, nation remains as govt’s top priority, Najib says - See more at:

17 July 2016: Felda warns settlers against getting involved with IS

Felda warns settlers against getting involved with IS  Bernama     10 Jul 2016  The Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) will take stern action against its settlers or family members if they are found to be involved with the Islamic State (IS) militant group. Its chairperson, Mohd Isa Abdul Samad, said actions that would be taken were in line with the existing laws in the country, as well as Felda's laws.  "For instance, if those involved (with IS militants) are from (Felda's) second generation and have applied to buy houses we built for them, we will reject. Any other actions will be reviewed from time to time. "Even so, I believe the police and army are more capable in identifying those involved or supporting the activities of this militant group. We, however, are looking at the issue seriously," he told reporters at his Aildilfitri open house in Port Dickson today.

10 July 2016: Support govt for your future, Azalina reminds Felda settlers; Najib - Felda as a powerhouse for another 100 years or more 

Support govt for your future, Azalina reminds Felda settlers July 4, 2016 -- She says Felda may be one of the first organisations the Opposition will possibly shut if it takes over the government.

Najib wants Felda to be economic powerhouse  March 15, 2016 -- KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said yesterday he wanted Felda to become an economic powerhouse that will continue to champion the plight of settlers into the next generation. He said the desire of the government in setting up Felda was to not only champion the plight of the first-generation settlers but also the second and third generation and for another 100 years or more.  “It is for this reason that we developed Felda, we established FGV (Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad), we have taken all kinds of measures to make Felda an economic powerhouse,” he said. Najib spoke at the launch of the Kami Anak Felda (KAF) organisation, the Kesejahteraan Adiwangsa Felda book, the Wada-Kemboja humanitarian mission fund and the Prihatin Jantung Anda programme, here. He said that the government wanted Felda, besides becoming an economic power house, to also become a political power house to ensure the continuity of Felda. Read more:

25 June 2016: RM50 million Eid festival bonus for Felda settlers excludes 13,589 who do not sell their FFB to Felda

Najib announces ‘duit raya’ of RM49.52m for Felda settlers Bernama      22 Jun 2016

PAS cries foul as over 13,000 Felda settlers denied 'duit raya' 23 Jun 2016 -- PAS has criticised the government for denying Hari Raya incentives to 13,589 Felda settlers. This was after Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak yesterday announced RM49.52 million "duit raya" to 99,046 Felda settlers. The remaining settlers did not qualify for the payout as they sell their produce to third parties instead of Felda. PAS Felda affairs chief Naraza Muda said the government should not be punishing Felda settlers who choose to be independent....

Malaysia Paddy Fields Are Najib’s Battlefield to Woo Voters by Shamim Adam June 20, 2016

Meeting K Kangsar folk’s needs is Mastura’s priority Bernama     23 Jun 2016 -- The mother of four is the widow of the previous Kuala Kangsar MP, Wan Mohammad Khair-il Annuar Wan Ahmad who died in a helicopter crash with five others in Sebuyau, Sarawak on May 5. Mastura has a list of things on her agenda, including visiting the site for the building of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s (MPOB) training centre, which had been promised by her late husband who was the MPOB chairperson. On her status of still being in the ‘edah’ period, Mastura said she had asked for views and guidelines from Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria in carrying out her tasks. “According to the mufti, If I am required to serve (the people), I am allowed to go out but certain things like celebrating the win is not permitted,” she said....

13 December 2015: How Felda mobilised 10,000 for ‘red shirt’ rally

How Felda mobilised 10,000 for ‘red shirt’ rally 11 Nov 2015  The total number of Felda settlers who joined the rally was estimated to be 10,000, according to the parliamentary reply, she said. This means that about 10,000 Felda settlers joined the red shirt rally, she surmised. Many of the settlers were transported to Kuala Lumpur in buses. About RM1mil spent ... government-backed Village Development and Security Committee (JKKR) and the Coalition of Women's Movement (GPW) for giving RM925,000 to fund the ‘Felda rally’.

8 June 2015: Could segregated palm oil exclude small producers, Felda subsidises 30% of settler children student loans

FGV, Felda Group pullout from RSPO certs 'done in settlers' best interest' BY OOI TEE CHING - 9 MAY 2016 Read More :

Could Europe’s drive to segregated palm oil exclude small producers? By Caroline Scott-Thomas+, 02-Jun-2015 A European push toward segregated certified sustainable palm oil may inadvertently exclude smaller producers from the supply chain, says GreenPalm manager Bob Norman.

Felda subsidises 30% of PTPTN loans taken by its settlers' children Last updated on 27 May 2015 - 08:35pm Shahrim Tamrin KUALA LUMPUR: Felda is subsidising 30% of the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) study loan taken by its settlers’ children for their diploma and bachelor degree studies at higher education institutions. Its director-general Datuk Hanapi Suhad said last year they channelled RM16 million for 1,825 students who are the sons and daughters of Felda settlers.
He also said Felda had provided RM200 million for various technical and human capital training schemes in public and private higher education institutions for 42,059 students from 2005 to 2010.
He earlier attended a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding with PTPTN in Menara Felda here today. PTPTN chairman Datuk Shamsul Anuar Nasarah praised Felda’s move, describing the initiative as part of the National Blue Ocean Strategy.

5 May 2015: Rompin retained by BN but with majority halved, summary of campaign

BN retains Rompin, majority reduced by almost half Published: 5 May 2015 8:52 PM ; Hasan Arifin, Barisan Nasional's candidate in the Rompin by-election looks set to win the parliamentary seat, which was previously held by the late Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, May 5, 2015.Hasan Arifin, Barisan Nasional's candidate in the Rompin by-election looks set to win the parliamentary seat, which was previously held by the late Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Najjua Zulkefli, May 5, 2015.Barisan Nasional (BN) today comfortably retained the Rompin parliamentary seat in the by-election for the Pahang southeastern constituency, albeit with a much lower majority. BN’s Datuk Hasan Arifin defeated PAS’s Nazri Ahmad with a majority of 8,895, according to the Election Commission (EC) announced at 10.23pm. Hasan obtained 23,796 votes while Nazri obtained 14,901, in a by-election that saw a 73% turnout when polls closed at 5pm earlier today. There were 501 spoilt votes. In 2013, the late Tan Sri Jalamudin Jarjis won the seat with a 15,114 majority in another straight fight against PAS’s Nuridah Mohd Salleh. 85.5% of the 53,596 registered voters in the constituency turned out for the 2013 elections.

Live updates: Rompin by-election polling day; Reporting by Ahmad Fazlan, Zaini Hardy, Nawar Firdaws, Ahmed Syahril, Zalikha Ameera, and Arif Kartono; ROMPIN, May 5, 2015: 6pm. Voter turnout for the Rompin by-election after polls were closed is at 73 per cent of the 52,744 registered voters, 7 percent below the EC’s target........

Is PAS candidate a threat to BN's hold on Rompin? 2015-05-05 11:12  ROMPIN, May 4 (Bernama) -- After 13 days of campaigning for the Rompin parliamentary seat by-election since the nomination of candidates on April 22, the 53,294 voters will decide tomorrow as to who will represent them.
Is the PAS candidate, Nazri Ahmad, the son of a Felda Keratong 5 settler, near here, and Pahang PAS Youth chief who has been stressing on him wanting to carry the voice of the young generation who make up over 40 per cent of voters in the area, capable of being a threat to this Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold. BN is fielding Datuk Hasan Arifin who has lots of experience in politics and the state's administration. Political observer Prof Datuk Abdul Halim Sidek opined that both candidates had their own strengths, hence creating a stiff contest for the seat. .......Since the campaign started, PAS has been focusing on two main issues - the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Felda, especially the housing problem faced by the second generation Felda settlers, considering that voters in close to 20 Felda land schemes in the Rompin constituency form 51.51 per cent of eligible voters in the area.
In fact, the two-day gathering of Felda settlers at Felda Keratong 4 previously touched on the GST while yesterday there was a talk on GST in Bandar Muadzam Shah. BN was not to be let down, instead it aggressively countered all of PAS' claims and resolved to solve the house price issue faced by the second generation Felda settlers by reducing the price from RM125,000 to RM90,000 per unit and to introduce the rent-purchase concept. Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) lecturer, Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain sees BN as having a very good chance of winning the by-election based on the candidate factor in terms of experience in politics and administration. Hasan was Pahang menteri besar from 1995 to 1999 and a former assemblyman for Tioman and Bukit Ibam in the Rompin parliamentary constituency, for four terms from 1990. ........Since nomination day, Hasan has been focusing on local issues, especially those faced by the young generation including the housing problem of the second generation Felda settlers, his intention to assist young people through high-impact fishery activities, and to boost tourism and modern agriculture which could give them lucrative returns. His appeal for the prime minister to review the house price for the second generation Felda settlers in Rompin due to their financial constraints bore fruit when last Saturday, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced a reduction in the original price offered from RM125,000 to RM90,000........

4 May 2015: Q&A on new 20,000 Felda homes policy and Felda second generation income questions; Rompin parliament constituency has 53,596 voters, with 87% comprising Malays living in 14 Felda settlements, Rompin by-election by Bridget Welsh

Question:  Can you give me an idea of the typical monthly income of a Felda settler? I am trying to judge the adequacy of the housing carrot being dangled for Rompin.
Answer: RM 1.4 billion appears to have been set in 2013 for 20,000 new homes for second gen @RM70k each? However, news articles report RM90,000 per home (reduced from RM124,000). How much is subsidy portion versus loan portion for the new home? What is extra or specific to Rompin? We looked at Felda settler issues and the most recent data on settler income was from Jengka by Colin Barlow; he found RM1,800/month from FFB from 4 hectare plot and possibly another RM600/month from other sources for 2014. So, if it's say RM24,000 per year of net income; a RM70,000 home is about 3x. What's the second generation income level? Aside from those urban dwelling, are all second generation of higher income than parents (Felda settlers) or are there some in the rural areas with lower income? Certainly, the education attainment were mostly higher than parents (who were selected from the poorer and/or landless segment who on average had income below RM200/month before joining Felda as settler, data as of 1979). Is the new Felda home policy focussed on second generation still residing in Felda areas in overcrowded settler homes? Note that 20,000 homes represent about 3.5pct of the second generation of 4.8 kids per settler.
PS. Look out for a piece by Bridget Welsh on Rompin soon.

Question: If the Felda second generation are working in agriculture then income should be comparable to first generation? Unless, they are merely resident in Felda areas and working elsewhere. In any case, it's interesting to learn that at RM2,500/month such Felda settlers are well above the median wage level.
Answer: We need the household survey to know how many person in one house - what ratio under and over peopled? But the new house numbers are relatively small at 3.5pct of second generation for the new homes; so is this a targeted policy for a small segment of second generation still rural residing and facing issues? Or is it case that the Felda settler transfer of ownership to one of 4.8 kids is really quite smooth, as most all are in the urban setting and not needing a rural home and income ? i.e. the Felda settler passes on rural nest egg to urban kids.

Abandoned by allies, PAS’s Rompin campaign a dull affair BY MOHD FARHAN DARWIS Published: 4 May 2015 2:48 PM; The lacklustre campaigning suggests that PAS has lost its mojo without DAP and PKR by its side. The latter are busy in the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign, which PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is contesting. However, Temerloh MP Nasruddin Hassan played down the matter and insisted all was well on the campaign front. “About 70% of the (Rompin) voters come from Felda settlements. So we are concentrating on those areas,” he told The Malaysian Insider when met at the Hindar 2.0 ceramah yesterday....The Rompin parliament constituency has 53,596 voters, with 87% comprising Malays living in 14 Felda settlements. The second biggest voters are the Orang Asli, followed by 9% Indians and just 2% Chinese. Tuan Ibrahim told The Malaysian Insider that PAS did not employ a general campaign strategy, and instead relied on different approaches for each area, based on the economic activities of the voters. “Our approach is not the same in each area. Our focus is on Felda settlements, so we have to deal with agencies. The mechanism is rather different. “We approach the farmers and the fishermen of Rompin differently. We visit the voters’ homes and employ a welfare approach,” said Tuan Ibrahim. Political analyst Professor Dr Mohamad Agus Yusoff said the factors working against PAS were the fact that it was on its own in the by-election, and that Rompin was an Umno stronghold.....He said the silent voters, who compromise the youth working in the cities, could turn PAS’s fortune around. “There are second- and third-generation Felda settlers who have different views from their parents,” said Agus. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appears to be aware of this, and took the opportunity to win the vote bank over by reducing the price of houses from RM124,000 to RM90,000 per unit. However, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has denied that Najib was using the house prices as election goodies, and said that the latter’s announcement was merely a “coincidence”. - See more at:

Pmtg Pauh, Rompin - markers of political future By Bridget Welsh  8:11AM May 4, 2015; Rompin has not received the same level of attention as Permatang Pauh, at least in the English language media, but it is equally important. At issue is Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's political future.
...  Today's reality is that there is open opposition to Najib's leadership within Umno led by former leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad and nationally, as the premier has the lowest public support in his tenure. It is thus not surprising that the stakes are high in Rompin, for a reduction in support in Rompin will signal trouble to Najib's political future....... Unlike Permatang Pauh, where a reduction in the majority is expected, given Najib's position and resources, even a small decline in support will be perceived negatively.... From goodies to grumbles -  By-elections have traditionally been 'buy-elections', with goodies galore. The BN, with its hand on the national till and control over the mainstream media, has always had the advantage, especially in the more semi-rural and rural areas. Given the stakes in these contests, there are many items on offer, with even the Penang government making promises of new projects. It remains to be seen how impactful the use of financial incentives will be this time round. One item that is marginally different than GE 2013, and reminiscent of conditions surrounding GE 2008, is a perceived decline in the economy. Ordinary Malaysians are feeling the economic pain, compared with the past, with a depreciated ringgit, the goods and services tax (GST), inflation and lower purchasing power...... Even in the Felda areas of Rompin, where the drop in the prices of rubber and palm oil has hit hard, there is a sense of relative economic deprivation. More than any issue - rights, religion or race - the main driver in voting in Malaysia is the economy, as surveys consistently show that the main issues that concern voters are the bread-and-butter realities..... As the campaigns come to a close, the promises of allocations have risen, with less open defence of the GST and more attention to where GST funds will go - be it towards civil servants, higher pensions and more........The expectation for both contests is reduced majorities. The main reasons for this is the expected lower turnout, with voting coming after a long holiday weekend, the negative mode of the campaigns, active sabotage and weakened support for both sides....

1 May 2015: Sarawak smallholder issues, PAS woo Felda settlers and youths, the question of FGV's low share price,

Masing: Stricter enforcement needed to stop FFB thefts posted on April 30, 2015, Thursday
“In July 2014, a joint operation known as ‘Ops Sawit Kenyalang’ was conducted by agencies such as Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Immigration Department, the police,, Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, State Security Unit, and State Attorney General Chambers. “MPOB has also frozen the issuance of new FFB dealers’ licence. A quota of two metric tonne per hectare per month had also been imposed to limit the sale of FFB by each smallholder. “This is to prevent smallholders from selling excessive volume of FFB, which may have been stolen from affected plantations. In addition, palm oil mills and FFB dealers are required to submit monthly the list of their FFB sellers to MPOB for monitoring purposes.” Meanwhile, to a point raised by Opar assemblyman Ranum Mina, Masing said as of March 31, 2015, of the 23 investors approved to develop NCR land in the state, 21 of them had successfully develop underutilised NCR lands owned by rural folk. “These investors have established 30 joint-venture companies (JVCs) with the NCR landowners in 33 projects. So far, 77,176 hectares have been fully planted with oil palm under these JVCs. “Up to March 31, 2015, RM 160.1 million has been paid by JVCs to the participating NCR landowners.” Touching on a request by Engkilili assemblyman Johnichal Rayong Ngipa that the outstanding loans of the settlers in Skrang Settlement Scheme be written off and land titles issued to them, Masing said 798 out of the 1,363 settlers in the seven Settlement Schemes in the state had fully settled their loans...........

The Iban longhouse that stood up to BN and prospered BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA Published: 4 May 2015 11:00 AM; Starting in the state 2006 election, the longhouse voted for the opposition Sarawak National Action Party. They voted for PKR in the 2011 state election, and in the 2008 and 2013 general elections. But retribution was swift, said the 50-year-old Adam. "Our names would be blacklisted at the district office when we went to ask for fertiliser and seeds. "Sarawak BN leaders would go around and tell other longhouses, 'Don't be like Pelepok, which voted for the opposition and now has to suffer'.” The brothers helped set up other families in the longhouse with their own pepper or oil palm orchards, lending them seeds and fertiliser....Off-road pick-up trucks and motorcycles zip down the lane in front of the longhouse as residents haul the pepper harvest to Betong town. In 2009, the brothers collected RM80,000 to hire contractors to build their own road to connect the village to the outside world instead of waiting for the government. "The road really helped boost our economy," said the middle child, Angut, adding that it allowed farmers to bring their harvests to the Betong market faster. Although it is a rutted, pock-marked dirt road that is only accessible by a four-wheeled drive vehicle, it is better than having to trek five hours through steep hills and jungle to reach Betong. A bunch of villagers using their own money to build their own road is almost unheard of in villages across Malaysia, where rural folks are accustomed to depending on the government for such facilities. In Sarawak, it is almost legendary....When the Sarawak government heard that Pelepok was building a small dam in early 2014 to install a mini-hydro system which would give them free electricity, electrical poles went up a month later, from the main road to their longhouse, said Adam. The poles and cables were put up by Sarawak Energy but electricity has yet to be connected. “They said we would get electricity by the end of 2014. But there has been nothing until now,” said Adam. The electricity poles, he claims, were a ploy to get the longhouse to abandon the mini-hydro project and to get votes. It is widely known that many communities in the Sarawak and Sabah interior have neither roads nor running water or electricity. PR claims that Sarawak BN politicians often withhold these basic services in order to win votes. Once the mini-hydro system is complete, Pelepok folk would get uninterrupted electricity without having to wait for the state government. Each family in the longhouse currently forks out about between RM150 and RM200 a month for their diesel generators. Like the road, Pelepok’s own supply of cheap electricity would break the notion that an indigenous tribe's success was dependent on their continued support for the government, said Vernon Aji Kedit, who is Sarawak PKR information chief. The mini-hydro project is being funded by non-governmental organisation Light Up Borneo, which also designed and paid for the system’s components. Sarawak PKR rounded up volunteers to help the longhouse folk install the system - See more at:

PAS out to gain support from Felda settlers in Rompin 2015-04-25 10:45  ROMPIN, April 24 (Bernama) -- PAS is going all out to woo Felda settlers in the Rompin Parliament by-election, including organising a two-day gathering, to entice settlers in Felda Keratong 4, starting tomorrow.
PAS Vice President Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man did not deny that the voters from the 14 Felda settlements in Rompin Parliament which constitute 51.51 percent from 53,294 total voters in the area, was the main focus of the party in the by-election. The gathering which will be kicked off by PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang will include Felda settlers with programmes ranging from dialogue with settlers to traditional sports and trade exposition, he said at the party's daily press conference here today. Tuan Ibrahim said the party was also focusing on gaining support from fishermen in Tioman which include Pulau Tioman, and also the Orang Asli community in the Bukit Ibam state seat. Besides current issues like Goods and Service Tax (GST), the party will be playing up issues on mining activities in Bukit Ibam and the development of new townships in Rompin, he said. Touching on the lack of the party posters in the current by-election, he said PAS was now concentrating on the new social media which he believes will reach a bigger audience, besides concentrating on face to face campaigning. He said the party has brought in 5,000 campaign workers to garner support for party candidate Nazri Ahmad..........

ROMPIN HEATS UP: Political flags burned at Felda settlement - Bernama Saturday, 25 April 2015 07:05; ROMPIN - The police are investigating two incidents involving the burning of political flags at Felda Selancar 2 here yesterday. Head of the Police Media Centre for the Rompin by-election, Supt Abdul Aziz Mahmud said the two cases were being investigated for mischief and damage. Upon conviction, offenders are liable to be jailed a maximum of two years or fined, or both.........

Over 300 Felda settlers join PAS in Rompin by-election campaign ROMPIN, April 28, 2015:
Although Felda has been considered a votebank for Umno, PAS says it is gaining support among the settlers in Rompin. — TRP pic by Mokhsin Zamani; PAS’ Standing Committee of Environmental Management chairman Andansura Rabu said a total of 305 Felda settlers have joined PAS for the Rompin by-election. “Last night we received more applications from 100 Felda youths who are the second generation of the government agency.” The Beserah state assemblyman said the settlers joined the party following the recent “Perhimpunan Selamatkan Felda 2.0″ held in Keratong.
“This shows that the reception towards PAS is positive and this is encouraging.” PAS is slowly making headway in the settlements by raising issues concerning Felda Global Ventures Sdn Bhd. Banking on Felda chairman Tan Sri Isa Samad’s 2011 appointment prior to the plunging of the government agency’s shares, Andansura said more settlers were becoming brave. “It is positive to see that many of the younger generation are showing their courage by coming out in the open to support us. “We hope many others will do so in the future.” When probed whether more would be joining the Islamic party in the coming days, Andansura said the number was going to get bigger. “We believe more will be joining PAS in the next few days.” ............

Felda settlers facing housing, financial woes; ROMPIN, April 26, 2015: Besides the recent plunge in Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd’s (FGV) shares, other issues are also plaguing Felda settlers specifically in Rompin. Speaking to The Rakyat Post, second generation Felda settler Zailan Yusof claimed settlers were currently faced with a string of woes especially the issue of affordable housing.
“In Keratong 4, there are some 400 families. “To us second generation settlers, the houses are not enough.” He alleged that affordable houses were given away to non-settlers and this he claimed had become a bane for them. The 45-year-old teacher, who was born in Keratong 4, called for transparency on the part of FGV and the Pahang state government. “There are cases where one non-settler gets about two to three houses. This in unfair,” he claimed. Persatuan Anak Anak Felda Kebangsaan information chief Naraza Muda alleged that many first generation settlers were beleaguered with debts, some reaching up to RM150,000. “The current value of their properties has not been disclosed but they have run up huge debts,” he said, speaking to a 1,000 strong crowd who turned up for the Islamic party’s ‘Selamatkan Felda 2.0′ (Save Felda 2.0) gathering yesterday in Keratong 4. In Rompin, Naraza said Felda settlers were facing sosio-economic issues as well, leading the NGO to conduct regular dialogue sessions to bring awareness to residents here.........

Felda shares will bounce back, analysts assure settlers – Bernama Published: 29 April 2015 3:08 PM; Settlers who owned shares in Felda Global Ventures Holding Berhad (FGV) need not worry about its price as it has potential to grow in future, said market analysts. Stock analyst, Nazarry Rosli, said FGV share price is in line with the palm oil market which is experiencing a fall in price but the situation is not worrying. "At the moment, not only is FGV counter trading at a low level but the trend affects all palm oil linked counters as a result of the low palm oil price..... "Nonetheless, the situation is not long term as the world palm oil market is expected to stabilise soon," he told Bernama today. He denied allegations by PAS that the government listed FGV shares in Bursa Malaysia was to the detriment of Felda settlers.   Nazarry also agreed with the recent statement of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the government set up FGV to ensure Felda grows into a successful corporate body.......... Nazarry, who is also Jupiter Securities Sdn Bhd director, advised settlers who own FGV shares to keep them and not to sell to avoid realising losses. In fact he encouraged other investors to take the opportunities to invest in FGV shares as it was rather low and cheap now. Based on Bursa Malaysia closing on Tuesday, FGV shares were traded at RM2.07 compared to RM4.45 when the shares were opened to retailers on June 28 2012. The view is also supported by economic analyst Professor Dr Mohd Fauzi Mohd Jani who clarified that the fall in crude oil price had affected palm oil price............

Felda Global Ventures eyes brownfield plantations to maintain cash;  BAHAU, May 1 — Felda Global Ventures Plantations (M) Sdn Bhd (FGV) says it will continue to acquire old oil palm plantations at a time when the company is carrying out aggressive replanting activities to maintain financial flow and profit. Executive vice-president and head of plantation cluster Abdul Halim Ahmad said the company is looking to acquire an estimated 15,000 ha. of brownfields a year, the same hectarage in its replanting programme. "We already have between 25,000 to 30,000 ha. of brownfields, and we are also eyeing 20,000 ha. to ensure stable cash flow for the company," he told reporters on a media visit here today. Abdul Halim said Felda Global's profit is expected to grow by up to 25 per cent in five years as its oil palm trees mature. He said replanting 15,000 ha. would cost RM135 million in the first year, rising to RM172.5 million in the second year after adding RM37.5 million in farm maintenance costs. FGV's planned acquisitions of brownfields in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are expected to be finalised by year-end, he said, adding brownfield acquisitions normally exceed 10,000 ha.   Funding for the acquisitions would come from its 2012 initial public offering proceeds, he said. FGV has a landbank of 467,755 ha., including 56,422 ha. in Indonesia. Out of the total, 350,394 ha. are oil palm plantations................

26 April 2015: In 2013, Felda allocated RM1.4 billion to build 20,000 units of affordable homes (at RM70,000 each?) nationwide in five years to enable the second generations to own homes; Rompin Parliamentary seat fell vacant after incumbent Tan Sri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis was killed in a helicopter crash at Semenyih; As Rompin had 14 Felda land schemes, the issue of second generation Felda houses, was close to the hearts of voters in the areas

Don’t be duped by opposition, Muhyiddin tells Rompin Felda settlers – Bernama Published: 26 April 2015 4:36 PM; Muhyiddin gave assurance that as long as BN was in power, the interests of the Felda settlers would continue to be protected in terms of development, education and the economy. "The history of Felda began when the late Tun Abdul Razak wanted to assist the people to overcome poverty and one of the approaches taken was the distribution of land that could be developed so that the settlers would have a brighter future. "However, this has become history, now many of the Felda areas have become new growth areas with better stadard of living compared to when they were first developed," he said. The Felda settlers at first lived in wooden houses, but they now lived in brick houses, he added. "The houses probably had one or two bedrooms in the past but now, they have grown bigger when more vehicles could be seen in front of the houses during Hari Raya. This shows that the settler community now enjoy many facilities and live more comfortably," he added. – Bernama, April 26, 2015. - See more at:

Felda has never cheated settlers, says chairman – Bernama Published: 24 April 2015 12:05 AM; He said the Felda community should accept that no comfortable house could be built at a cost of RM90,000. "We have no intention of cheating the people over the issue of house. But we must accept the fact that with RM90,000, we cannot built a comfortable house," he told reporters after officiating a ground-breaking ceremony for Dewan Semai Bakti in Felda Keratong 10, Rompin, today; In 2013, Felda allocated RM1.4 billion to build 20,000 units of affordable homes nationwide in five years to enable the second generations to own homes. Meanwhile, Pahang PAS deputy commissioner Nasrudin Hassan said in Muadzam Shah that the second-generation Felda houses would be among the main issues for the party campaign machinery at Rompin by-election. "The issue of houses for the second generation is still pending. The voters in the area are disillusioned as after so long the houses which were promised to them are not forthcoming," he said. As Rompin had 14 Felda land schemes, the issue of second generation Felda houses, was close to the hearts of voters in the areas, he said. - See more at:

Felda Settlers Urged To Reject Opposition's Accusations During Rompin By-Election; ROMPIN, April 20 (Bernama) -- Felda settlers have been advised to not easily fall prey to the opposition's slander and accusations on the government to 'fish' for votes during the Rompin Parliamentary by-election on May 5; Felda chairman Tan Sri Isa Samad said the opposition's plan was to divide settlers by harping issues with intention to incite hatred toward the government. "They have been doing this in every by-election and general election, but thank god many of the Felda settlers do not believe their accusation," he told reporters after the groundbreaking of the Felda Keratong 9 Semai Bakti Hall, here, today. The 3,500-square meter project, worth RM950,000, will accommodate facilities for 2,000 settlers to organise various activities. Isa said Felda was liaising with the local community and leaders to repel the opposition's accusations by providing exact information about Goods and Services Tax (GST) and 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) related-issues. "Continuous information programmes will be held to Felda settlers in the country so that they will not fall prey to the opposition's accusations," he said. The Rompin Parliamentary seat fell vacant after incumbent Tan Sri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis was killed in a helicopter crash at Semenyih, Selangor on April 4.
The Election Commission has set April 22 as nomination day and May 5 as polling day. -- BERNAMA;

Booklets, officers to explain on GST for Rompin folks  By T.N.Alagesh and Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi - 23 April 2015 @ 11:13 PM; ROMPIN: To ensure voters in Rompin have accurate information about the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry has distributed booklets on the newly-implemented tax system to 38 voting district centre (PDM) in the constituency. "We hope voters in Rompin will not be easily duped by the misleading information spread by the opposition on GST as the tax collected by the government will be used for the benefit of the people," he said. Meanwhile, Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad reminded settlers not to be easily duped by misleading information about Felda Global Ventures Holding during election campaign.  "The (opposition) are only recycling issues which were previously highlighted during the 13th general election and now since it is a by election, they are back to lure voters. They are aware that Rompin has about 17 Felda settlements and the settlers could decide the outcome on polling day," he said.


Smallholders in Nigeria

In reviewing the situation of oil palm smallholders in Nigeria, Ayodele et al. (2015, p.1-2) writes of a low production (under-invested) palm oil sector dominated by production by 4 million smallholders( largely from wild groves, for domestic consumption):

  • Nigeria is the world’s third-largest palm oil producer. It has the world’s largest percentage of smallholder oil palm farmers – around 90 per cent. Smallholder oil palm farmers typically earn higher incomes from oil palm than from other crops. Smallholders generally operate on wild groves. While these groves have relatively poor yields they require lower agricultural inputs. The smallholder sector supplies local markets generally aimed at domestic use. The value chain for smallholders extends to locally based traders and traditional or small-scale processors.
  • Larger plantations, while relatively few, are not undergoing the level of expansion seen in other countries in Africa or across Southeast Asia. Subsequently the problems that have been associated with palm oil in high-growth countries are considerably smaller in Nigeria.
  • In many ways this situation in relation to palm oil could be regarded as positive. Palm oil should, in theory, provide a significant boon to local livelihoods through a well-established value chain that has existed since the 1960s.
  • The potential for oil palm as a crop for export and local use is, however, significant. The crop provides exceptional returns to land and labour for smallholders, of which there are around 4 million. The introduction of large-scale investments would bring significant expertise, infrastructure improvements and extension services that would improve the sector significantly.
  • Nigeria in this regard is unique compared with other palm oil producing nations in the region; it is not a matter of the establishment of a new industry – the industry is established, its plantation footprint is significant (in excess of 2.5 million ha) and many people already understand its benefits. It is more a matter of how the existing industry can be improved – and therefore generate better socio-economic outcomes.
  • The success of oil palm as a crop is affected by poor and ineffective land tenure laws (legal land tenure often clashes with communal land tenure, creating social FPIC risks), poorly implemented government policy, high costs (poor transport infrastructure and inefficient traditional processing techniques), and lack of investment. They note that “Environmental thresholds on oil palm will not necessarily result in environmental protection. They may simply prompt development of another crop. Oil palm is not a key driver of deforestation in Nigeria; this is because the area for oil palm – although suffering low productivity – is large.”
  • In the event that HCS did deter investment, then, what would be the impact? In other words, the trade-off would be the choice between an industry that remains stagnant and dominated by independent smallholders that supply the domestic market or significant productivity gains for the 4 million smallholders in Nigeria.

p. 31:
The results for incomes per hectare in ex-post studies are broadly consistent. They place the incomes from average sized farms in Nigeria (1.5ha) at the level of average incomes for the country as a whole and higher than rural incomes generally. This would indicate two things:  Independent oil palm smallholder farming provides a means to poverty alleviation in Nigeria; Supported smallholder farming – and by extension larger estate developments with an out-grower component – have significant potential to alleviate poverty in Nigeria.

p. 33
The relationship between smallholders and large estates in Nigeria is similar to that found in other parts of the world, although the relationship does not have the strong institutional ties that have been forged in a country like Malaysia. Presco Plc is a Nigerian company, listed on the Nigerian stock exchange. It is the subsidiary of Siat, a Belgian company with interests primarily in palm oil and rubber, with operations in different parts of Africa. Presco has more than 15,000ha of plantations in Nigeria… Presco, when establishing its outgrower scheme in Ologobo, assessed the role that outgrowers could play in conservation of remaining forest areas. However, the study did note the complexities around expecting local communities – whose primary interest in the plantation is economic – to undertake such a role. Subsequently the company’s focus in community development has been on education, roads, water and electricity…. PZ Wilmar has established oil palm plantations and palm oil processing in Nigeria much more recently and is seeking to develop more than 70,000ha of plantations. As a consequence its relationships with Nigeria’s extensive smallholder and informal oil palm sectors are considerably less developed. The company is currently in the process of replanting old stock, which is providing considerable levels of employment for local farmers and additionally providing training for these farmers.

Ayodele, Thompson, Olusegun Sotola, Olajide Damilola, Khalil Hegarty and Ilemobola Obe (2015), Nigeria: A smallholder case study, Consulting Study No. 13 for The High Carbon Stock Science Study 2015 (December 2015),, accessed 10 Feb. 2017.

Sabah & Sarawak news (update 10): Plantation company link to Miri murder of activist Bill Kayong. Sabah pledges RSPO, 3D forest mapping by Lidar, 90 meter tree, other use of Lidar

17 July 2016: Plantation company link to Miri murder of activist Bill Kayong

Two charged over murder of Miri PKR's Bill Kayong BY KANDAU SIDI - 15 JULY 2016 MIRI: A 29-year-old car repossesor was among two people charged at the magistrate's court here today over the murder of PKR Miri branch secretary and activist Bill Kayong @ Mohd Hasbie Abdullah, who was gunned down last month. Mohamad Fitri Pauzi was charged with murdering Kayong at a traffic light intersection near the E-Mart Supermarket, Jalan Miri-Kuala Baram, at 8.20am on June 21. Pub owner Lie Chang Loon, 37, and three others who are still at large, were charged with abetting Fitri with the murder. One of persons who are still at large has been named as Lee Chee Kiang. It was learnt that Lee, 45, is attached with a plantation company. Fitri was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder, which carries the mandatory death sentence upon conviction. Meanwhile, Lie was prosecuted under Section 109 of the same Act. Read More :

Coupon system to overcome fertilizer distribution for smallholders in Sarawak: Uggah BY BERNAMA - 2 MAY 2016 -- BINTULU: The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) will introduce a coupon system to overcome problems in the distribution of fertilizer to oil palm smallholders. Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said the decision was made following claims by smallholders that they were facing difficulties to receive fertilizer.

Kemena smallholders happy with Rundi’s efforts  May 3, 2016 --  Tuai Rumah Jimbai Saban, 65, was grateful that his longhouse’s request to expand the community’s oil palm farm had been approved. “Fifty-two residents of my longhouse will be involved in this programme. MPOB has approved RM936,000 to cultivate 104 hectares. “I am confident that Rundi if elected for a third term will do much more for the people. He is very sensitive to the people’s needs,” he said. For Rundi, close cooperation with the Plantation Industries and Commodities facilitated his efforts to help the farmers in the area. “We thank the ministry for helping the smallholders. This will provide a certain amount of satisfaction for them and I believe such aid would continue,” he said. Rundi also thanked the ministry for approving RM2 million to complete the gravel road connecting the oil palm estate with the main road in Kemena. The allocation was announced by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas while launching the Commodity Smallholders Transformation Programme at the Sebauh community hall here, today.....

13 June 2016: Sabah 3D forest mapping by Lidar, 90 meter tree, other use of Lidar finds Cambodia medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle

Lidar system spots ‘tallest tree’ in the tropics 09 Jun 2016 -- At almost 90m, a Yellow Meranti is the tallest jungle tree ever discovered in reforestation research project. An 89.5m (293 foot) tall tree, equivalent in height to a column of 65 people standing on top of each other, has been discovered in Malaysia by conservation scientists using a laser-based system to monitor the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of a pristine rainforest. The tree, a Yellow Meranti (familiar to Minecraft players, who can create entire jungles of the variety) was spotted by a aircraft-borne lidar system an area of forest known as “Sabah’s Lost World” in the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, one of Malaysia’s last few untouched wildernesses. Its height pips the previous record-holder, an 88.3m example, found in the Tawau Hills National Park. The giant tree was discovered during reconnaissance flights by conservation scientists from the UK’s University of Cambridge working with the Sabah Forestry Department to help prot ct the area’s biodiversity. It comes at a crucial time, as the Sabah government takes measures to protect and restore heavily logged areas in the region....

3D mapping to decide on land use April 6, 2016 -- Carried out by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO), a facility under the Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford University, the high resolution and three dimensional mapping will provide a good understanding of the structure and quality of Sabah’s forests, carbon stocks and biodiversity patterns – and help with conservation and restoration decisions. CAO, which is the most scientifically advanced aircraft-based mapping and data analytics system globally in the civil sector today, will map forest and non-forest vegetation carbon stocks, 3-D vegetation structure, and canopy tree diversity across the state’s 7.4 million hectare land area. This mapping process will provide government decision makers, scientists and conservationists an understanding on how past environmental management decisions have impacted the land and biodiversity, and how current and future decisions can make their status better. The maps will also set a baseline against which land and biodiversity management can be assessed in the coming years. The CAO aircraft is scheduled to collect data until early May 2016 as part of a partnership between CAO and the Sabah government through the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD). The partnership was initiated and facilitated by Forever Sabah....

Revealed: Cambodia's vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle - Exclusive: Laser technology reveals cities concealed under the earth which would have made up the world’s largest empire in 12th century  11 June 2016 -- What is a lidar survey? An airborne laser scanner (ALS) is mounted to a helicopter skid pad. Flying with pre-determined guidelines, including altitude, flight path and airspeed, the ALS pulses the terrain with more than 16 laser beams per square metre during flights. The time the laser pulse takes to return to the sensor determines the elevation of each individual data point.  The data downloaded from the ALS is calibrated and creates a 3D model of the information captured during the flights.

13 December 2015: Sabah pledges RSPO and to test HCS

Sabah To Test High Carbon Stock For Sustainable Oil Palm December 11, 2015   KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 (Bernama) -- The Sabah Forestry Department has committed to test the High Carbon Stock plus (HCS+) methodology for sustainable oil palm development in six months following the release of the HCS+ study's findings.  "We are very keen to pursue the offer from the Sabah Forestry Department which indicated that this would be very helpful for them.  "This shows that the state is very committed towards sustainable palm oil and a sustainable economy," said Forum for the Future founder Director Jonathan Porritt.

Sabah's CSPO Pledge Will Improve Smallholders Yields: MPONGOC   KOTA KINABALU, Dec 1 (Bernama) -- Smallholders who lack knowledge and support for good agricultural practices or skills such as negotiating rates for their harvest stand to gain from the Sabah Government's move to fully produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) within the next 10 years. The Malaysian Palm Oil NGO Coalition (MPONGOC) said the move will also help secure environmental benefits such as safe water supply and soil conservation, as all producers in Sabah will be both obliged and assisted to meet globally-accepted standards such as those advocated by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).  "The commitment to help Sabah's smallholders achieve RSPO standards will future-proof their access to top-flight international markets," MPONGOC representative, Cynthia Ong, said in a statement Tuesday.

Sabah’s move to produce sustainable palm oil hailed  November 12, 2015 Read more:


22 October 2015: Sarawak asks for more than "palm oil, palm oil, palm oil,"    PT Bank Mandiri - commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth as the commodity boom is over

Sarawak has to industrialise: CM 22 October 2015 by Patricia Hului BPO Newsdesk; ...In an interview with Bloomberg TV Malaysia, ‘Spotlight on Sarawak: Playing Catch-Up’ broadcast on its website Oct 21, the chief minister addressed the need for the state to industrialise, diversify its agricultural sector and increase infrastructural development....On the need for the state to industrialise, the chief minister said that Sarawak was no longer satisfied with only producing raw materials as in the old days. “We want to process these products ourselves so that we can retain the added value.” About 40 per cent of Sarawak’s economy is reliant on commodities, but contribution from manufacturing, construction, services and other industries is on the increase. “I have decided no more timber licensing, no more plantations. For the time being, give ourselves a respite and then perhaps eventually we will depend on our industry.” .... On the state’s palm oil industry, Adenan is looking to diversify the agricultural sector in Sarawak. “Food production is very slow and now we insist on palm oil, palm oil, palm oil. It’s good, but why can’t we grow other crops for production, food crops and so on,” he said, foreseeing increased interest in this area coupled with Sarawak’s availability of land for food production. Read more:
Analysis: The effect of commodity price changes on Sumatra and Kalimantan Mamay Sukaesih, Jakarta | Business | Wed, October 21 2015, 5:45 PM; .... Our analysis has revealed that commodity-based provinces should find new sources of economic growth in the future. The main reason is simply that the commodity boom is over, implying that they can’t rely on commodity-based development anymore. One of the alternatives is to promote resources-based industries such as manufacturing and adding the value of goods that have been produced in the regions. PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) Tbk. - See more at:


20 October 2015: Smallholders to get stake in independent Beluru mill project, one of 5 independent mills planned for Sarawak, Sarawak rejects trade barriers

Sarawak rejects trade barriers  By OOI TEE CHING - 17 October 2015 @ 11:00 AM; Wilmar’s refinery in Bintulu, Sarawak, was the main buyer from 41 palm oil mills across the state, absorbing 1.7 million tonnes of CPO, or half of the state’s production. In sourcing CPO to feed its refinery, the Wilmar-Unilever pledge dictated to planters in Sarawak that starting January, it will stop buying oil from estates where there are allegations of land grabbing from natives. The pledge will also lead to a halt in the sourcing of palm oil from farmers who have planted their trees in areas of “high carbon stock” and peat swamp. In an interview at his longhouse in Silas Estate near Bintulu, village head Meikle Ding spoke about his people’s sentiment.  When asked if the native customary rights (NCR) landowners had seen any tangible benefits from the Wilmar-Unilever pledge, Meikle replied: “It looks protective of us natives, but in reality our genuine business partner is Ta Ann Plantation.” He said Ta Ann, as the 60 per cent shareholder in Silas Estate, had taken considerable risk in coming up with up-front capital to lay in infrastructure to plant oil palms.  From the start of planting, even before the trees have started to bear fruit, it had given incentive payments to landowners....“As rural folks, we are simple people, but we’re certainly not simple-minded. Many of our children are working as doctors, lawyers and high-ranking diplomats serving the government in overseas missions. When asked to comment on anti-palm oil campaigns run by green activists, Meikle explained that natives were landowners as well as shareholders in the business of oil palm planting... Meikle also questioned whether the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreements would address discriminatory and oppressive business dictates from buyers like Wilmar and Unilever. His query has struck a poignant chord on global edible oils trade politics.... Earlier this week, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to harmonise and combine palm oil certification standards. Indonesia’s Chief Natural Resources Minister Rizal Ramli told the Parliament that it was time for Indonesia and Malaysia to fight and regain sovereignty on their own turf....
Smallholders welcome independent Beluru mill project September 19, 2015, Saturday; “This would be the first in Sarawak where smallholders can also purchase shares and be stakeholders in a palm oil mill,” Entri said during a project progress briefing to about 1,000 smallholders and representatives yesterday.... The projected cost of the mill would be between RM40 million and RM50 million, which would involve RM5 million worth of shares for smallholders. Entri said smallholders can enjoy multiple benefits when the mill is operational. Registered members of farmers organisations would enjoy dividends through SFO’s involvement apart from direct shares, while smallholders can also tap into technical advice, farm maintenance and production items such as weedicides and fertilisers without worrying about being fleeced by mills or collection centres while selling their fresh fruit bunches (FFB).... A special investment scheme would be set up to assist smallholders interested in purchasing shares, including loans where payment instalments could be made through deductions by the mill from FFB sales. Meanwhile, MPOB Sarawak regional head Sulim Lumong said Beluru will be one of five independent mills planned by Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas for the state... Read more:

22 August 2015: Rimba Sarawak forestry study

Adenan hits out at ‘stupid’ forest policies BY DESMOND DAVIDSON Published: 20 August 2015 5:50 PM; Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem today described the  decision by the previous administration to bar foreign researchers, ecologists, conservationists and naturalists from conducting studies on the state's forests, particularly its totally protected forests, as “stupid”.
Launching a new study called Research for Intensified Management of Bio-rich Areas of Sarawak (Rimba) and later witnessing the signing of the memorandum of understanding on it, Adenan, who became chief minister last year, said it was “stupid” not to seek foreign expertise “when we don't have the expertise”. Rimba Sarawak will be the first collaborative international study to gather what the Sarawak Forestry describes as “credible scientific information on the status and health of our totally protected forests so that the appropriate management prescriptions can be formulated for these and other bio-rich areas”.
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20 July 2015: Wetlands International - About 82% of the Rajang Delta in Sarawak (East Malaysia) will be irreversibly flooded within 100 years and substantial areas are already experiencing drainage problems

Wetlands International Press Statement - Peatlands of South East Asia are heading towards a socio-economic disaster 6 Jul 2015; Agricultural production in vast regions of South East Asia will be lost in the coming decades as a result of flooding of extensive lowland landscapes due to unsustainable development and management of peat soils. About 82% of the Rajang Delta in Sarawak (East Malaysia) will be irreversibly flooded within 100 years and substantial areas are already experiencing drainage problems. This will increasingly impact local communities, the economy and biodiversity and will develop over time into disastrous proportions unless land-use on the region’s peatlands is radically changed. Therefore Wetlands International calls for conservation and sustainable management of peatlands in South East Asia. A study commissioned by Wetlands International and executed by Deltares suggests that extensive drainage of peatlands for oil palm cultivation in the Rajang river delta results in such massive land subsidence that this will lead to extensive and devastating flooding incidents in the coming decades.....

23 June 2015: Ta Ann new NCR JV for 60% stake in 17,000 ha (60% plantable; Sibu and Kapit area) replaces 2012 agreements revoked for lack of land owners' interest; BLD questioned over "no deforestation, no peatland" policy; Palm oil a matter of national security for Malaysia - opinion

Bunge palm oil supplier plans to clear peatlands for plantations by Rhett A. Butler June 22, 2015  BLD Plantation Bhd, a Malaysian palm oil company, plans to clear some 14,000 hectares of peatlands in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, potentially putting it in conflict with the deforestation-free sourcing policy established by American agribusiness giant Bunge, say campaigners who filed a grievance over the matter.  In a statement issued last week, Forest Heroes announced it has formally filed a complaint via Bunge's grievance system in anticipation of BLD Plantation's peatland clearance. The complaint urges Bunge to suspend sourcing from the company, which supplies the multinational with palm oil via the Kirana refinery in Bintulu, Sarawak. It also asks BLD to adopt a zero deforestation policy and restore an area of peatland equivalent to the 6,000 ha it has already cleared.... Ta Ann and Sarawak state government in new oil palm JV projects Monday, 22 June 2015  By: M. HAFIDZ MAHPAR; KUALA LUMPUR: Ta Ann Holdings Bhd is making a second go at doing joint-venture (JV) oil palm development projects with Sarawak state-owned Land Custody and Development Authority (Pelita) after an aborted earlier attempt. Ta Ann had to cancel earlier planned projects with Pelita - a statutory body under the Sarawak Ministry of Rural and Land Development - to develop jointly three parcels of land in Mukah and Kota Samarahan totalling about 39,000ha. These agreements, signed on Sept 28, 2012, were revoked due to the land owners’ lack of interest. However, Ta Ann’s unit Ta Ann Plantation Sdn Bhd (TAP) signed two new agreements on Monday with the authority’s unit Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd to implement oil palm development projects in partnership with the Sarawak state government and native customary rights (NCR) owners. In a statement to Bursa Malaysia, the company said it would have a 60% stake while Pelita H oldings as trustee of NCR owners would have 30% and Pelita itself 10%. (For the 2012 agreenment, the proposed equity interests had been 55%, 30% and 15% respectively.) This time the JV companies plan to develop the parcels of NCR land situated in Sibu, with aggregate gross area of 17,017ha (of which an estimated 10,210.2ha are plantable area) and NCR land situated in Kapit with aggregate gross area of 11,178ha (of which an estimated 6,706.8ha are plantable).

Background news:
  • Sarawak timber firms step up tree planting to ensure constant supply Monday, 8 June 2015  By: JACK WONG;KUCHING: Timber companies in Sarawak, hit by falling log production, are stepping up tree replanting efforts to ensure future supply. WTK Holdings Bhd is expanding its forest plantation area by 12% this year, as it targets to replant 1,000ha more with fast-growing commercial timber trees. “Effort is being made on research and development to increase the seedlings’ yields and reduce planting costs,” chairman Datuk Wong Kie Yik (pic) said. The group has planted 8,000ha and Wong said it was a long-term goal to replace timber from natural forest concessions with trees from the forest plantations for downstream products in line with the state’s sustainable forest management practice.....
  • Chong blames ‘Big Six’ for deforestation Posted on May 29, 2015, Friday Chong who is also Bandar Kuching MP claimed concessions given to the ‘Big 6’ are: •Ta Ann Group of Companies:  433,003 Ha /1,069,935 acres •RH Group of Companies : 1,001,877 Ha / 2,475,604 acres; •Shin Yang Group of Companies: 500,904 Ha /1,237,716 acres; •Samling Group of Companies: 1,288,389 Ha / 3,183,565 acres; •KTS Group of Companies: 144,485 Ha / 357,017 acres  •WTK Group of Companies: 357,017 Ha / 882,176 acres.....

Palm oil a matter of national security  By Dr Ahmad Ibrahim - 22 June 2015 @ 12:00 PM; MANY may not be fully aware that oil palm is a strategic crop for the region. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, which together control almost 90 per cent of the global supply of palm oil, depend to a significant extent on oil palm for their economic wellbeing.... Oil palm has, for years, been a lifeblood of the rural economy in both countries. In fact, it would not be wrong to suggest that any serious disruption to the palm oil market may even spell dire consequences for rural households in both countries. Many families are entirely dependent on the income from oil palm for their livelihoods..... Malaysia now has about 5.4 million hectares of oil palm. Indonesia has almost twice that. Production in Malaysia has been stagnating just under 20 million tonnes a year. It has been estimated that around 250,000 small farmers contribute towards the nation’s production. In fact, smallholders account for about 50 per cent of planted hectarage in the country. But the more important statistic is that close to 2.5 million people in the country make their living from the palm oil industry. The continued wellbeing of the industry is, therefore, important to them. It has been reported that some of the nation’s richest individuals owe much of their fortunes to activities linked to palm oil.... ....... In Malaysia, Sarawak is a good example of one such case. The plan by the state to expand oil palm cultivation was met with serious opposition by NGOs. Unsavoury tactics have been used to trigger negative market sentiments among palm oil buyers. The European Union (EU) market has been especially influenced. The EU has put up non-tariff barriers to palm oil export, using greenhouse gas emission as the criteria. This has been vehemently contested by the palm oil industry.... The industry has started questioning the sincerity of such groups offering sustainability schemes. Many among industry members have expressed concern about the changing criteria of their certification schemes. They keep moving the goal posts. It is as if the agenda is not at all about sustainability. Instead, it is about making it difficult for palm oil. Smallholders are especially worried. And smallholders are naturally the ones most affected if such actions lead to reduced demand for palm oil. The ultimate pain for smallholders is the risk of a decline in demand leading to big drop in palm oil prices. Which is what is happening now. Many small farmers are now suggesting that the negative campaigns by the NGOs may be tantamount to deliberate sabotage. And as a strategic crop for the nation, palm oil must now be viewed as a matter of national security for the country. The writer is a fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.....

7 June 2015: Sabah to pledge 100% CSPO by 2025? Dolphin Int sees strong East Malaysia demand, CIMB- Plantations update- Minimal quake effect

23 June note: On Sabah CSPO plan - one industry expert reckons that this move was initiated by Sabah authorities.

Malaysian state eyes 100% certified palm oil by 2025  May 30, 2015  Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo, is weighing a proposal to produce only palm oil certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an eco-certification initiative, by 2025. The move, if approved, would represent the first time a sub-national or state entity has committed to 100% certified palm oil production.  Sabah currently produces 12 percent of the world's palm oil, making it one of biggest global players. Production comes from a wide range of actors, from smallholders to some of the biggest palm oil companies. That diversity however, makes a state-wide certification approach challenging, since smallholders typically cannot afford the cost of certification.   But some officials think that obstacle may be worth overcoming if it enables Sabah to differentiate its palm oil from other producers, especially given the rise in the number of companies that have adopted social and environmental safeguards for palm oil sourcing.  “Both global demand and downstream industries will increasingly pull the supply chain for Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and Sabah must act to be ahead of the curve,” said Sam Mannan, Director of the Sabah Forestry Department, which owns about 100,000 hectares of palm oil plantations in the state. "With time, large competitors will inevitably outpace Sabah’s total output of palm oil but with certification, Sabah can build itself as a niche producer of a branded good – i.e. certified palm oil, and compete on the basis of governance and not size.”  Read more:

Upcoming listing Dolphin International sees strong demand from East Malaysia by Ronnie Teo Posted on June 4, 2015, Thursday KUCHING: Dolphin International Bhd, which aims to list on the main market of Bursa Malaysia next Tuesday, anticipates strong demand from Sabah and Sarawak for its palm oil machinery. As a company involved in the design, development, fabrication and sale of products for the palm oil milling machineries sector, Dolphin International is indeed in a unique position to tap into the many demands of the plantations sector. Within Malaysia, Dolphin’s role mainly focuses on machineries and automation in palm oil milling. As such, plantation owners, as well as commercial palm oil millers are key customers for the group, it told The Borneo Post in an interview yesterday. Read more:
CIMB- Plantations update- Minimal quake effect: A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the state of Sabah, prompting concerns that palm oil output from Sabah, which account for 31% of Malaysia’s palm oil production, could be affected. Our checks with the planters reveal that their palm oil operations have either been unaffected or just minimally impacted by the event as most of their estates are located some distance away from where the earthquake struck. We maintain our Neutral rating.
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26 April 2015: Uggah: Sellers of FFB must include names - FFB thefts in Sarawak was a matter of concern

Uggah: Sellers of FFB must include names; Posted on April 18, 2015, Saturday; KUCHING: Sellers of palm oil fresh fruit bunches (FFB) are now required to put down their names and particulars to be sent to Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) for monitoring and checking purposes.
This is a new strategy introduced with the aim to curb the never-ending thefts of fresh fruits bunch in the state, says Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah.
He said mills and collection centres were only initially required to record the quantity of the FFB sold to them but now they had to get the names of the sellers as well. “Failing to get their names means the collection centres are committing an offence and stern action will be taken against them,” he told a media conference after chairing a second meeting to discuss FFB issues here yesterday. Deputy Home Minister Dato Sri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar and representatives from other relevant agencies were also present; Uggah lamented that the FFB thefts in Sarawak was a matter of concern because despite the operation code-named Ops Sawit Kenyalang mounted from July 1 to December last year there was still no end to the problem. Ops Sawit Kenyalang 2015 was launched on April 2.
He said that from January to March this year the authority had received 82 reports of FFB thefts throughout the state involving a total area of 18,192 hectares including Samarahan, Sibu, Mukah, Kapit and Miri. “To prevent the sales of FFB from suspicious sources MPOB has issued a directive which restricts mills from buying more than two tonnes of FFB per hectare,” he said. Uggah said through the operation conducted by MPOB and various other enforcement agencies including the police from July to December last year a total of 278 compounds and 41 show cause letters had been issued to several operators to explain why their licences should not be suspended......
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24 April 2015: Salcra to build new palm oil mill in Merindun

Salcra to build new palm oil mill in Merindun Posted on April 24, 2015, Friday; SARAWAK Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) has obtained approval from Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) to construct a new palm oil mill in Merindun in line with its development plan.
According to Assistant Minister of Land Development Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, the new mill located near the old mill that was partly destroyed by a fire last year, would have a processing capacity of 60 metric tonnes (MT) per hour and upgradeable to 120MT per hour. “Site preparations and other civil works for the new mill commenced in July last year and is expected to be operational by the end of 2016,” he said in response to Johnichal Rayong’s (BN-Engkilili) query on whether Salcra would build a new palm oil mill in Merindun. On a related matter, Abdul Wahab said Salcra would continue to purchase FFBs from smallholders who have signed long-term contracts to sell their FFBs to Lubok Antu Palm Oil Mill..... Read more:

18 April 2015: Drag plantations to Environment Court over riparian says CJ of Sabah and Sarawak

Drag plantations to court: CJ April 18, 2015; Kota Kinabalu: The best way to get plantation bosses and others to ensure they respect riparian areas is to sue them for growing oil palm or other crops illegally right to the river bank, thus affecting wildlife movement and river quality. "Encroachment of riparian reserves is subject to challenge in court especially if the evidence is good now that the Environment Court has been set up since January 2015.  "If only anybody such as NGOs take an action in court and say 'look we want this to be declared a wrong action, get a judicial review or declaration in court, it's there," said Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Tan Sri Richard Malanjum.
Malanjum said this when asked to clarify on Land Ordinance Sabah (Cap 68) Section 26 (1)(2) which specifies riparian reserves along all rivers , even small rivers must be kept.
He spoke at a joint press conference, Thursday, with State Culture, Tourism and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, in conjunction with the Workshop on Environment organised by the Judiciary-initated Sabah Working Group on Environment, at UMS.

18 November 2014: RSPO RT12: Sabah considering 100 percent RSPO by 2025?

Moderator Cynthia Ong on the Reaching the Market discussion reports that Sabah stakeholders are discussing 100 percent CSPO by 2025. She says authorities, industry, civil society and small holders are discussing. She is championing this move for Sabah.
Cynthia Ong asked Wilmar if they would support such a Sabah move. Wilmar notes that there are many who are not RSPO members abd that various types certification may be used.
Darrell Webber (RSPO Secretary General) notes there is more talk of jurisdictional approach as it's hard to certify smallholders.
MR Chandran (RSPO Advisor) suggests getting downstream players getting uptake commitment. He notes the Sabah Chief Minister has recently endorsed the RSPO. If Sabah can pull this off it would be an example for the rest of the world.
Companies who have cleared after 2005 may need to comply with the RSPO's Compensation Liability. Darrell Webber notes that 280,000 hectares (globally) need to be compensated for. He says that it would be good if the government is involved as they could help with conservation area planning for the RSPO Compensation if Sabah were to go 100 percent RSPO certified.
MR Chandran picks up on question on cost or cost sharing. He reckons the downstream players need to be involved in this cost share. On cost Cynthia Ong reckons that Sabah government, industry and RSPO could help fund Sabah smallholder certification. She asks if others would help too.