Look at our good stories, too: Sawit CEO
Published on: Sunday, May 12, 2019
By: Kan Yaw Chong


Palm oil bashing is a fad these days – and not always incorrect. But it’s definitely not all bad stories either.  This is why Masri Putin (pic), Group CEO of Sawit Kinabalu – wholly Sabah owned and third largest oil palm company in Sabah – said there is a problem:    

“The problem is that people outside (Sawit Kinabalu) don’t know what is going (inside Sawit) and only assume a lot of bad things, ” Masri complained mildly. 

“We take this opportunity to tell the whole world that there are a lot of good things that we are doing,” said Masri to a gathering of Sabah journalists at its Sungei Pin Estate on 29 March in conjunction with the Million Trees Planting Project officiated by Primary Industries the next day at nearby Pin Supu Forest Reserve.   

So, Masri argued: “We have to promote ourselves for the sake of the State, for the sake of the planters, for the sake of the industry. This is what we are thinking about. 

“There is no way we can do this without the help of the press.” 

That would be right in terms of natural justice – the right of everyone to be heard.   

“This is what we have learnt: After Mr Kan’s (Daily Express) write-ups on our Sungei Pin Conservation Ficus planting on palm trees last year adjacent a pocket of wild orangutan forest enclave, the whole nation realised that there is such thing as a 2,600ha conservation area inside Sawit Kinabalu,” Masri noted.    

“We are not aware of in any other part of Malaysia where people have allocated conservation area of this size, so I think we need to promote more for the sake of Sabah.” 

 

All for the sake of Sabah

He asserted: “In Sawit, whatever we do is for the sake of Sabah. Sawit Kinabalu is actually a government linked company. The State government owns 100pc share. We are fully owned by the state government of Sabah. 

“If it is owned by Sabah, it is owned by all of us also people from the press. Whatever we have here belong to all of us, the rakyat of Sabah. The income here belong to the Sabah government and the rakyat,” Masri said, invoking State pride.

 

“Basically, Sawit Kinabalu is a plantation company or supposed to be a plantation company incorporated in 1986,” he went into its background. 

“Some of you heard initially it was under Sabah Land Development Board but in 1986 the government decided to split it into two, the business side of it comes under Sawit Kinabalu – Sawit Kinabalu incorporated.

“We do business for the State government for the State of Sabah. We generate income which inevitably it goes to the State Government which utilises the money, it’s up to them how.”

 

86,000ha land bank for 34 plantations 

“In 1986, total land bank altogether we have was 86,000 hectares which is now managed by Sawit Kinabalu but not all the land belongs to us.

“In total we have altogether 34 estates scattered all over Sabah.

That’s why when you travel from Kudat, Beaufort, Sipitang or Tawau to Lahad Datu Kinabatangan to Sandakan you can find sign boards of Sawit Kinabalu,” he said. 

“The planted area is 70,000 hectares. In fact Sawit Kinabalu is the third largest plantation in Sabah, after Felda the biggest, next IOI and Sawit Kinabalu third in that order.”

 

Eight mills and 450 MT crude/hr 

“Mills we have eight altogether with a total capacity of 450 metric tonnes of crude palm oil per hour,” he said, scattered across Lumadan, Langkon, Apas Balung, Seudung, Kunak, Sebrang, Sandau, Sepagaya, processing some 2.5 million tonnes of Fresh Fruit Bunches per year.  

“Our major product is refined oil. We produce fruits from plantations, process them in the mills and then send it in our refineries, then the final product is refined oil so we are selling refined oil.”

 

Weed management: 14,000 free grazing cattle to reduce weedicide use   

“But not many know we have 14,000 free-roaming cattle in our plantations,” Masri felt sort of unfortunate.   

“We are the first or among the earliest who started this integration.

“We keep our cattle in our plantation, initially to manage our weeds, because by keeping cattle in our plantation the cattle will continue to work for us.

“Initially we used them for weeds management – just eat the grass for us. We observed with this practice we could reduce our chemical use. It is also quite friendly to the environment – it can reduce our weeding cost by about 30 of the total cost, amounting to at least RM50 to RM60 per year per hectare! ”

“Then on top of that as a business we can sell the cattle,” Masri said 

According to a top rank staff: “The meat tastes like this – thumbs up,” he gestured to Daily Express.

 

Integrated healthier agro-ecosystem lessens chemical use 

This eco-friendly agro action on integrated farming within oil palm estates is at once winsome to consumer interest in its business and helps brand Sawit Kinabalu positively for its eco care.

At least, it shows the management of Sawit has identified the opportunities as well as threats and acted accordingly to go for a healthier agro-ecosystem to reduce use of chemical synthesis products to reduce pollution.  

“We started this in 2002, the first batch we put into our plantation and today we have 14,000 cattle roaming around in our plantations which I think not many people know. It is a dual purpose, weed management as well as a business to us-lah,” Masri added.     

Given its pioneering experience and track record in free-roaming cattle rearing within oil palm plantations, Sawit is thinking of expanding the cattle scope.

 

Ready to go big on cattle business

“We are actually ready to go into cattle business now,” Masri said.  

“I do not know whether the government later on decide to assign the Keningau Integrated Livestock Centre (KILC) dairy cattle under the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority.  

“If the government gives it to us I think we are ready to go on a bigger scale,” Masri said, adding that there is a lot of potential in cattle business in this State.

The RM768 million 2,084-acre KILC project, launched by former Prime Minister Najib Razak on June 16, 2012 is the first livestock centre of a large-scale in Malaysia under the Sabah Development Corridor, forms part of the Sabah Interior Food Valley Initiative.   

 

A good story: Sabah free from ‘Foot and Mouth’ disease 

“Sabah is the only State in Malaysia which is free from foot and mouth disease,” Masri noted.  

“Not many countries in the world are free from this disease meaning to say if you are quoted cattle from Sabah you can sell your cattle or your beef anywhere in the world. 

“If you produce your cattle in either West Malaysia or Sarawak you have difficulty when you go for expert market. 

“If you raise it in Sabah you need to do it with the objective of export money and by doing that I think we’ll be able to help Sabahans. More people will be able to participate in this cattle industry later on in view of the potential,” Masri continued. 

 

Proof of experience, world standard feed tech all there: Masri

“Sawit Kiinabalu is ready. We have the experience, resources, expertise, the people… and on top of that, we are ready with animal feed production in Tawau. We can produce our animal feed now like the way people produce feed for chicken,” he waged confidence.

“All you have to do is keep your cattle somewhere in a feedlot area and then feed them with animal feed.” 

 

Eco-friendly palm leaf based feed production

“You can just feed them with animal feed and anyway our animal feed is very environment-friendly produced in natural integration with our oil palm,” Masri further claimed.  

“The leaves of oil palm we harvest.  In fact every time you harvest your fruits you actually chop down your leaves some parts of the leaves we send to the feed mill were they mix with the other components of animal feed.

“Actually oil palm also can support the cattle business. Our animal feed produced from our feed plant in Tawau after we tested it is I think as good as the best animal feed in the world.

“The only thing lacking is some proposals to go ahead and also support by the government.

“I think we are ready to do that and I think this is one big area we can play role in the State,” Masri sounded Sawit’s readiness.                       

 

Out to bring Sawit to another level 

“Generally Sawit Kinabalu is ready to go into other business including property development now is still in the process of a master plan.” 

“Soon I think you will hear about Sawit Kinabalu start to go aggressive in terms of property or the hospitality business,” Masri said.

“We are quite ready for that.

“But overall we look at what we believe strongly in Sawit Kinabalu and in what way we can actually bring this company into another level,” Masri spelled out his mission.

All said and done, the RM60 billion palm oil industry all goes back to source – seeds. 

Here again, Masri cited its integrated seedlings operations upstream on which its plantations depend.

“I think we are the most complete, not many organisations in Sabah as complete as Sawit Kinabalu,” he opined. 

 

Biotech lab capable of half million ramets  

“We have seed production units in Tawau where we can produce up to 4-10 million seeds per year and also on top of that we also have biotech lab capable of half a million ramets a year, agronomy (science of soil management and crop production), the end objective is improvement of planting materials and start to sell them, maybe in two years,” Masri said.

“We are also getting some of the performance of these materials, once confirmed we can identify the most productive clones and we start to sell to the farmers. I think in that way we can improve ours and that of industry overall.”            

         

Everything must be scientific 

But everything in plantation activities has to be scientific, Masri said.

“Before you even apply fertilisers you have to know what the requirement are like, you have to analyse the palm trees, the leaves, you have to take samples of leaves, samples of soil finally you come up with a program,” he enlightened the press. 

“But all these things have to be analysed in the lab – how we manage our production because we also can’t afford to apply excessive fertilisers as it involves cost. In doing that we will be able to optimise our production costs.

“This is why we have a central laboratory which is also producing service not only for our own operating needs in our plantations but also for our mills and also providing service to other plantations, whoever want to analyse their soil or mills we can always send to our lab. Otherwise they have to send all the way to Kuala Lumpur.”

 

One million seedlings

Given 70,000 hectares of plantation and a policy to replant 3-4 per cent to ensure fruit production without interruption, Sawit needs 300,000 to 400,000 out of the total seedlings every year, the rest are for outsiders, Masri said    

“So we have six commercial scale nurseries from Kudat to Beaufort.

“Nurseries in oil the palm industry is very crucial, because you have to make sure that the seedlings you plant will eventually give you the best eventual production possibilities – the potential production you must ensure right from the first day,” Masri stressed.

“To do that you have to have proper nursery, you have to select the best seedlings and not many people are able to do that actually.

“So when you receive the seedlings from any nursery you have to really check what is their nursery practice in the nursery but we provide these facilities not only for ourselves but also for the public.

“We need to provide facilities also for the public not only for our own consumption. I think we are in a position to produce at least one million seedlings per year. Our requirement is from 300,000 to 400,000, the rest are for outsiders.”

 





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