Palm Oil: Change Transmigrators’ Fate

Foto By Tari Mulyanah/SawitFest 2021
Palm Oil: Change Transmigrators’ Fate

InfoSAWIT, JAKARTA – Agricultural sectors play important roles in Indonesia’s economy. This is known from the contribution to gross domestic product about 12,81% in 2018 or the third after processing industries, big and retail trade; and motor and car repair (Source: Publikasi Statistik Kelapa Sawit Indonesia, Badan Pusat Statistik, 2018).

Palm oil process and plantation industries are the keys and vital to the economy in Indonesia. Besides as the ‘primadona’ to export and exchange provide to the country, palm oil industries provide employment for millions of people. This should be the same notice for everyone of us and for other people in many countries.

The proof is that the cooperation with European countries, such as, Swiss, 51,6% of Swiss people agreed to support Indonesia-European Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA), a cooperation to increase economic activity between Indonesia and Europe ( The comprehensive trade agreement scheme would provide chances to escalate product access for Indonesia, including palm oil and its derivatives. “We thought, IE – CEPA totally concluded the discussion by many sectors (Indonesia and European Free Trade Association/EFTA), General Director of International Security, Region, and Industrial Access Ministry of Industry, Eko SA Cahyanto said in Jakarta in March 2021.

The vast subsystem development in palm oil sector since the late of 1970s is the proof. In a practical document Prospek dan Arah Pengembangan Agribisnis Kelapa Sawit di Indonesia published by Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pertanian Departemen Pertanian Tahun 2005, it is clearly mentioned about agribusiness development prospect until 2010 and development direction until 2025 (Vready Roeslim, “Prospek dan Arah Pengembangan Agribisnis Kelapa Sawit di Indonesia”, Badan Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pertanian Departemen Pertanian, 2005).


Palm Oil: Mainstay for Transmigrators

At least, there are three economic sectors based on the activity; they are, primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. The three relate one to the other. According to its definition, primary sector is material industries that operate extraction and gather natural resources. Palm oil plantation companies are in this sector because they operate to provide raw material for manufacturer industries (

In the world markets in the last decade, palm oil use and consumption developed about 8 to 9% in every year. In the future, this would remain stable and it is possible to increase as same as the alternative fuel use in vegetable oil, such as, biodiesel. The increasing palm oil use happens for the increasing world population and the progressive oleo-chemical use in food, shortening, pharmacy, cosmetic industries. These happen for the developing palm oil use which is more competitive that other kind vegetable oils.

According to Oil World, commodity use in palm oil – base in global markets keeps increasing for years. It defeats other industries using other kinds of vegetable oils, such as, wheat oil, corn oil, and coconut oil.

Since 2004 palm oil use has been the highest rate in vegetable oil markets in the world, up to 30 million tons within average progress up to 8% per year. It defeats soybean oil use about 25 million tons within average progress up to 3,8% per year. Other commodities used are sunflower oil about 11,5 million tons.

Based on data mentioned above, it is proven that palm oil is the mainstay sector and oil producer that the world demands. The drastic increasing numbers from 1970 to 2015 showed that palm oil markets are interesting business for stakeholders or planters. This should be reference in the future.


Plantations and Transmigrators

Transmigration (from Netherland: transmigratie) means the movement of people from one to another island in Indonesia. The goal is to make the same number of populations. Besides minimizing numbers of population, transmigration is about to minimize numbers of poverty in Java. It is believed transmigration is about to provide employment, namely in plantation areas because transmigration areas still have forests and untouched by man.

According to the history, transmigration runs for many years ago. It firstly happened in the early of 19th century by Netherland. In the beginning, it was about to minimize people’ numbers in Java and supplied workers in the plantation sectors in Sumatera. The program slowly faded in the last years of Colonialism (1940s). It happened again after Indonesia got the independence to solve food and economic issues in Soekarno’s era or twenty years after the second War of the World. (

At the peak in 1929, more than 260.000 contract workers of Cultuurstelsel were taken to east coast of Sumatera, 235.000 men of them were from Java. The new comers were hard labors; if someone asked to cancel the work contract to the company, he would be punished to do labors. This lead highly death and torture at the time.

It means, it is undeniable that until now most people out of Java (Sumatera, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and few in Papua) depend on plantation sectors. They who were transmigrators (who join transmigration program) mostly work in palm oil centers, both private or in private sectors. (*)


By: Charismanto

*The writer is a child of transmigrator in Sumatera, precisely in Musi Rawas Utara, South Sumatera. He is now a student of Program Magister Komunikasi dan Penyiaran Islam, Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta. He is an environmental and social observer namely about transmigrators’ life and palm oil industries where he was from.

Nominator Sawit Fest 2021 Kategori Lomba Esai / the article has been edited: the real title is Meneropong Masa Depan Transmigran Melalui Industri Sawit. For more, please go to SAWIT FEST 2021  


About Sawit Fest :

Sawit Fest 2021 supported to escalate palm oil literacy for the people in public and young generations in special to deliver whole description about palm oil industries. It was also to deliver the right understanding about palm oil contribution to countries, social, and environment.

Sawit Fest 2021 was supported by Palm Oil Plantation Fund Management Agency (PFMA), Bumitama Gunajaya Agro Group, Indonesian Palm Oil Association (IPOA), Asian Agri Group, PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk, and PT Cisadane Sawit Raya Tbk., with the strategic media partners, Media InfoSAWIT and Palm Oil Magazine.

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