Driving the Palm Oil Industry Through Science Technology and Innovation Towards Greater Productivity & Sustainability

Article and photos by Associate Prof Ir Dr Hazlina Selamat, the 2018/19 ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow placed at the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC), Malaysia.

Science Technology and Innovation (STI) is one of the main catalysts to boost economic growth and social development. Therefore, during my fellowship, I looked at STI policy development for technology capitalization in Malaysia’s palm oil industry to address its productivity issues and environmental impacts. Since Malaysia is capping its palm oil areas to 6.5 million hectares to limit deforestation, landbank for expansion becomes limited. Thus, the only way to stay competitive is by increasing the productivity of existing plantation areas, which technology plays a vital role in doing.

In understanding technology’s roles in the palm oil industry, I conducted an investigation through literature surveys, policy analysis, interviews with Heads of R&D in plantation companies and related government agencies, as well as surveys among independent smallholders. This gave me a comprehensive understanding of the current state of the technological implementation in the industry, its challenges as well as its potentials. Findings show that there are pressing needs for technologies, but its adoption level is low mainly due to costs and lack of readiness, whether technological or from the users themselves. In response to this, I tried to create awareness on this matter amongst industry stakeholders through informal and formal discussion sessions. Additionally, I also share my Fellowship findings with the public through my blog (hazlinaselamat.com).

Currently, I am working on a policy recommendation to advocate the use of advanced technologies to make our palm oil industry more competitive and sustainable. My experience is further enriched through my participation in a special taskforce for the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry formed by the Malaysia Academy of Science and my involvement with the smallholders’ associations to guide smallholders in technology usage.

I hope that after the fellowship, I can use these platforms to continue contributing to the industry with my knowledge and experience.

Attending a briefing session on Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil Certification to the independent oil palm smallholders in the Rengit Area of Johor, Malaysia.

Picture session after an interview with Dr Ahmad Parveez Hj Ghulam Kadeer (third from right), Deputy Director General (R&D) of Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and his team at MPOB Headquaters, Bandar Baru Bangi, Kajang, Selangor. MPOB is the main Malaysian government agency that serves the country’s palm oil industry.
Interview with Dr Harikrishna Kulaveerasingam, Chief R&D Officer of Sime Darby Research Sdn Bhd.

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