Region of southern Myanmar were assessed during three site visits by the author,
the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and
Fauna & Flora International (FFI). In total, 12 plantations were visited. Plantations
varied greatly in size, productivity, and in standards of sustainable production.
It is assessed that although climatic conditions in the region (4-5 months annual
drought and 4-5 months very heavy rainfall) are not ideal for maximising the crop
yield potential of this cultivar, some very reasonable yields are being obtained from
early plantings established on flat to undulating terrain with good soils along the
coastal belt, and that with enhanced input a productive industry can be sustained.
However there are many aspects of the plantation establishment, management and
operation in this Region that preclude efficient production of sustainable palm oil
and optimisation of oil palm crop yields. The aspects of greatest importance are:
- Government policies on allotment of land for extension plantings without
adequate land use planning that ensure undue deforestation, adverse social
and environmental conditions, and also planting on unsuitable soils and
steep hill slopes to the detriment of future crop yields and economic returns.
- In general, but with a few exceptions, the plantations are poorly managed.
Management strategies do not appear to focus on crop optimisation,
primarily due to poor staff/worker policies and lack of training, and also to
poor agronomic practices. Fruit processing facilities on some of the
plantations are woefully inadequate resulting in high production losses.
- The shortage of funding from head offices is often cited as the reason for the
problems experienced at plantation level.
- There is a need for improved research facilities and agronomic advisory visits
to plantations. In particular, research trials should be established to
determine the most appropriate genetic materials and fertilisers to use
under the local conditions.
- Further consideration should be given to the expansion of oil palm smallholder
schemes, especially for local populations.
- Greater consideration should also be given by the government, the plantation
owners, and plantation managements to instituting national sustainability
guidelines, as promoted internationally by the RSPO that would be rigorously
implemented by the industry.
Insufficient data was given to the visitors to provide an accurate economic assessment
of the industry and its component operations. However, it is an economic fact that
by increasing the production of oil per unit area, there should be a corresponding
offset of the amount of land required to fulfil production targets.
Stringent forward planning is required of all parties to ensure that only the most
appropriate land with the greatest potential for high and sustainable palm oil yields
is selected for future development.