Doppa appeals for exemption from additional cess

MIRI: Sarawak Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association (Doppa) has called upon the federal government to exempt oil palm smallholders from paying the proposed RM5 additional cess for every tonne of crude palm oil (CPO).

Regarding the added cess as ‘an additional burden’, Doppa secretary Incham Serdim said smallholders were already struggling with the problem of lacking manpower – leading to unharvested fruits.

“The government would listen to the voices of the industry, especially the struggling smallholders at the bottom of the food chain – they already had to pay the cess now regardless of whether they make any profit or not,” he said.

Doppa said it was only reasonable for the government to allow ‘some breathing space’ when the price was good as during the tough times, with smallholders having to struggle on their own without any assistance.

There are over 36,000 oil palm smallholders in Sarawak, and over 70 per cent of them are from the Dayak communities.

The association said oil palm planters, including smallholders, were already paying the RM14 per tonne in cess to the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), which collected just under RM280 million at the current CPO output.

The current cess is already considered high and it is being contributed by a section of the industry that faces the most challenges.

“The additional RM5 cess per tonne would bring in RM100 million per annum to MPOB. That is huge sum for research, and what benefit would that bring to the smallholders? “ said Incham.

Independent smallholders like Doppa members do not receive any assistance from the government, unlike Felda members who could expect RM400 each under the current budget allocation.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced the government to impose travel restrictions, has caused a serious shortage of manpower in the industry – a problem affecting Doppa members and other unregistered smallholders in Sarawak.

Workers shortage has resulted in oil palm smallholders incurring losses from missed opportunities as productivity has dropped drastically

Fresh fruit bunch (FFB) output has plunged by 30 to 50 per cent, and harvest has been reduced to barely once a month instead of two previously.

The high price has helped offset the losses due to the drop in harvests, enabling smallholders to pay off their bank loans for vehicles and other farm inputs. CPO prices have climbed to its highest level in three years before easing slightly – resulting in a corresponding increase in price of FFB last month. FFB prices at private collection centres nearer to the mills are about RM640 per tonne, but it is slightly higher at mills in Bakong-Sibuti region in Miri Division last week.

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