Indonesia could take at least 12 years to complete a programme of replanting palm-growing areas after a farm ministry official said it was revising down annual targets, due to difficulties smallholders faced in proving they were eligible for the scheme.
The government plan aimed to boost output on existing plots instead of adding new plantations, so helping to defuse criticism over massive forest clearance that sometimes wafts smog into Southeast Asian neighbours, disrupting daily activity.
As part of its subsidised programme to replace smallholders' old trees with new ones using better quality seeds, Indonesia had set a target of more than 2.4 million hectares (6 million acres) of palm under cultivation by 2025.
But lower annual targets will take effect this year, said Kasdi Subagyono, director general of plantation at the agriculture ministry, adding that participants faced administrative problems.
"We have decided to set an average annual target of 180,000 hectares per year," he told reporters.
It was difficult to reach the government's aim of 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of plantation replanted this year, followed by targets of 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) next year and 800,000 hectares (1.9 million acres) in 2021, he added.
Since the programme was launched in late 2017, the government had replanted 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of palm by August.
The new annual figure means Indonesia will take more than 12 years to reach the replanting target of 2.4 million hectares, a Reuters calculation shows.
Indonesia has pledged to ease the path for farmers to join the scheme and to employ surveyors to speed verification of land rights after many complained of administrative difficulties, such as proving their ownership or rights to use land.
Small farmers in Indonesia typically manage only a few hectares of palm plantation each, but collectively they account for about 40% of the total area under cultivation, or about 14 million hectares (34 million acres).