Misperception about Forest Cultivation between Palm Oil and Forest Plantations (End)

Doc. InfoSAWIT
Misperception about Forest Cultivation between Palm Oil and Forest Plantations (End)

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA – Is it that simple to propose palm oil as forest plantation just based on the reasons written in the previous article?

As a matter of fact, it needs more arguments and should see other basic things, such as, forest cultivation (silviculture), regulation, understanding data, and environment (ecology/hydrology, carbon emission) perspective. Let us discuss one by one from other side.

To follow up the previous article, one consideration is after understanding forest area composition. Please go to:

The second, in forest cultivation (silviculture), the business core is high qualified wood, not non-wood forest product (forest by products). While in palm oil, the business core is fresh fruit bunch (FFB) while palm oil wood is just by products.

In wood business, palm oil wood does not have economical value or does not make profits. In 9 x 9 meter - planting distance in one hectare, there will be 123 trees within every tree is not more than 15 meters. It means, palm oil wood to get is less than 25 cubic in one hectare.

In natural forest, there could be 40 – 50 meter - cubic of wood in one hectare with silviculture system of tebang pilih tanam Indonesia (TPTI). In plantation forest, there would be 100 meter - cubic in one hectare. Meanwhile in industrial plantation forest, for instance, acasia mangium and replanting for 8 years again, there will be log about 165,89 m3 per hectare.

The third, if palm oil plantation is categorized as forest plantation, forest cultivation should be re-regulated, which covers, the planting range, the thinning and branch pruning to get high qualified wood. Is it possible? It is impossible because thinning and pruning will have something to do with FFB as the main product of palm oil tree.

The fourth, forest definition is not about certain width where plantations grow but more than that, it should be able to create micro climate. Palm oil definition as forest plantation normally refers to forest definition that Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defined. In 2010 FAO defined forest as one overlay within more than 0,5 hectare where trees more than 5 meters grow and with crown coverage is more than 10% or trees that more than 5 meters naturally grow there.

Meanwhile the latest definition, according to Regulation of Minister of Forestry which is combined to ‘work definition’ of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Indonesia to conduct Mekanisme Pembangunan Bersih (MPB) which is standardized in forest reference emission level (FREL), forest is one area more than 6,25 hectares with more than 5 meter – trees when they are mature and canopy coverage is more than 30%.

Is palm oil categorized in the criteria? With 9 x 9 meter – distance in one hectare, there will be 123 trees. If half hectare, there will be 62 palm oil trees. What kind of micro climate can be created from the small habitat?

The fifth, from environmental aspect, forest plantations for they are trees, still have hydrologic function, keep water for having deep roots. Though palm oil does not need much water compared to others, but its short roots cannot keep much water like others namely in peat ecosystem. Hydrologic function of plantation is bad. The research in Chile mentioned, monoculture plantation, even if it is tree, is not good to be climate control. Monoculture plantation absorbs less carbon for the plantation competes one to another, not share, just like natural forest that has high conservation.

Conclusion, it is better to stop expanding palm oil plantation in non-forest coverage forests which are not more than two million hectares (not 41 million hectares just like what Teguh Patriawan wrote). In addition, there have been 3,1 – 3,4 million hectares palm oil plantations which are planted in forest regions as illegal ones that the government is dealing with according to Government’s Regulation No. 24/2021. The suggestion is that if anyone wants to expand palm oil plantations, it is better to realize in non-forest coverage in other area of use which is vast still about 60,3 million hectares as win-win solution.

(Writer: Pramono Dwi Susetyo / Worked at Ministry of Environment and Forestry; The Author of “Seputar Hutan dan Kehutanan: Masalah dan Solusi”)

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