All oil palm growers, regardless of their plantation size, have been urged to switch from chemical fertilizers to optimum usage of organic fertilizers.
Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said besides giving good yields to planters, using organic fertilizers could also boost food security and any consideration given to embrace safe food production could protect Malaysian consumers from diseases brought on by food.
This is also in line with Food and Agriculture Organization’s, an agency under the United Nations, move to implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
"The ministry also encourages palm oil planters to optimize the use of land by implementing intermittent cultivation, which can improve the quality of the ecosystem and soil fertility, and in turn, increase the production of palm oil," she said in a statement today.
Zuraida said oil palm cultivation was currently facing an increase in operating costs of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent due to surges in the cost of fertilizer, labor, and fuel.
"The rising of oil palm fertilizer prices are an inevitable global phenomenon stemming from inflationary pressures and the Russian - Ukrainian conflict. This is why it is more effective to use local methods to address shortages and exorbitant fertilizer prices.
She said one of the innovative methods was the production of bio-fertilizers using palm kernel shells (PKS) - which are usually burned or planted - through a pyrolysis process to produce PKS biochar.
It is then treated with other biomass such as chicken manure to produce bio-fertilizer, which can then be used as fertilizer for oil palm.
Recently, the ministry opened up applications for two incentives — the Oil Palm Integrated Farming Scheme (ITa) and the Agro Bank-MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board) Easy Financing Scheme.
Under ITa, oil palm planters who plant pineapples are eligible for incentives of RM7, 000 per hectare, while those who grow bananas, watermelon, corn, and papayas receive RM3, 000 per hectare.
This inter-cropping incentive aims to encourage farm owners to diversify their sources of income through cash crops and optimize the use of their land while enabling them to recover the excess production cost that they incur from rising fertilizer prices.
"In the face of rising fertilizer prices and the current situation due to inflationary pressures and war between Ukraine and Russia, industry players and smallholders need to think of aggressive measures to overcome these challenges and ensure their returns from oil palm are not affected," added Zuraida.