From the 1960s, Malaysia’s oil palm plantations commenced planting with higher-yielding Tenera palms which yielded up to 30% more palm oil per planted ha. At the same time, a new domestic industry sprang up – production of palm oil mill machinery.

By 1974, a further advance had emerged by licensing in-house palm oil refining, fractionating and bleaching. In the 1980s, technology had been developed to transform palm oil mill liquid waste from a costly effluent to a profitable feedstock to generate electrical energy. Production research took a further leap forward by the multiplication of selected palms through clonal technology in the 1990s.

** https://world,2015

Forest cover
Indonesia, as at 2017, has maintained 50.2% of its land area under forest cover. Malaysia appears to have maintained 67.6% natural forest cover (World Bank data, 2015). Currently, 17.6% of Malaysia’s landmass, or 5.7 million ha, remains undeveloped – less than the existing oil palm planted area of 5.8 million ha (MPOB, Dec 31, 2017).

A Malaysian national policy to preserve 50% (16.4 million ha) of natural forest cover would allow licensing of 11.4 million ha (35% of the landmass) for oil palm plantations, while preserving status quo with Indonesia in relation to Malaysia’s 1992 Earth Summit pledge of 50% forest cover. Malaysia’s all-important plantation economy has consistently emphasised its commitment to reducing carbon emissions and maintaining biodiversity.

The developed world (with some notable exceptions) records about a third of its land area devoted to forestry; the developing world in Southeast Asia records up to half of its land area devoted to forestry. The exception is Malaysia where, in 2015, 67.6% of its land area was shown to be under forest. Have Malaysian land-use policies been targeted by foreign NGOs financed or subsidised by nations which prop up domestic production of oilseeds?

CPO consumption
Halting the 1981-2018 ‘oil palm fever’ has refocused national priorities from plantation investment to maximising the fresh fruit bunch (FFB) and crude palm oil (CPO) production per planted ha, with strong emphasis on product quality and marketing. It marks the end of a 37-year bull run which has seen palm oil increase from 7.8% of worldwide supplies of edible oils in 1980 to 35% in 2017.

CPO consumption/caput/annum was 101kg/caput in Malaysia, 38kg/caput in Indonesia and 13kg/caput in EU-27 in 2017 (Table 2). These figures contrast sharply with the average annual consumption (7.2kg/CPO/caput for the rest of Southeast Asia).

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The Pareto Law, also known as the 80/20 principle, is useful in the planning of marketing strategies. Essentially, it states that 80% of the results will be derived from 20% of the input. For example, 80% of company profits will be generated by 20% of the products, or 80% of sales will come from 20% of the premium customers.

The Pareto Law was developed by Vilfredo Pareto of the University of Lausanne in 1896. In his first paper, he stated that 80% of the land in Italy belongs to 20% of the population. He then carried out a survey in other countries and observed a similar distribution.

Business managers are increasingly making use of the Pareto Law to analyse the impact of their marketing budget, sales distribution, customer complaints, feedback and service plans.

The Pareto Law also has a place in daily plantation operations, with everyone from the general manager to the agronomist being able to apply it to their area of work. These are some rules of thumb:

  1. 80% of the best fresh fruit bunches or oil yield will come from 20% of the fields
    Focus on this 20% of the estates/fields to improve operational issues, such as crop recovery or harvesting operations, to get as much out of the crop as possible.
  2. 80% of the worst performing fields will come from 20% of the estate
    Make regular – rather than random – field visits to find out what has gone wrong.
  3. 80% of the FFB will come from 20% of the most productive oil palm trees
    Harvesters will know where the best trees are located. Going on the basis of small plots/ha, take care of the trees – apply the correct dosage of fertiliser and carry out water retention programmes, such as empty fruit bunch application or constructing a pit. This will help raise the crop productivity.
  4. 80% of labour problem will be generated by 20% of the work-force
    Eliminating the problematic workers will resolve 80% of the labour issues.
  5. 80% of the most productive employees will come from 20% of the premium work-force
    Therefore, giving good incentives will increase productivity.

Reasons to apply the principle
Senior planters may be dubious about such measures. They may have many questions – particularly about the recommendation to target 20% of any area of plantation management in order to improve overall results. To view the situation holistically, we have to understand the evolution of plantation management.

During the mechanical era, new machinery and equipment were developed. The chemical revolution resulted in improved fertilisers and crop protection products. The biogenetic revolution saw the promotion of biogenetic annual crop seeds with better yield.

We are now experiencing the fourth agricultural revolution, involving the Internet of Things. Agricultural start-ups are looking at new concepts such as using sensors to capture basic raw data (moisture, rainfall and sunshine duration) to predict the yield, with complex logarithm programming for annual crops. Unmanned robotic tractors to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are used to carry out spraying, manuring, census and mapping using hyper-spectral cameras.

In order to act quickly and correctly within a limited time-frame – while coping with acute labour constraints – we have to rely on emerging technology tools like intelligent software, logarithm studies, distribution patterns or big data management.

The 80/20 principle is a simple mathematical distribution model that is capable of capturing data for many years to come. Applying the Pareto Law in daily operations will also enable productive use of time toward efficient and effective management of plantations.

Devarajen Rajagopal
Developer, Oil Palm Pesticides Calculator