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On the 23rd of February 2023, a group of 11 undergraduate students including their three accompanying lecturers from Shinshu University of Japan recently visited the Stenggang Oil Palm Estate (OPE) and the Bau Palm Oil Mill (BAPOM) to learn more about the palm oil production.
Palm oil is a versatile and valuable commodity that is used in a wide variety of products, including food, cosmetics, and biofuels. Malaysia is one of the leading producer of palm oil worldwide, and the industry plays a significant role in the country's economy.
The students first arrived at Stenggang OPE and were greeted by Herman Sambikin, the Estate Manager and representatives from the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (SALCRA). After a quick safety briefing, Johanes Emang Disun, Assistant Estate Manager provided them with an overview of the OPE’s business operations including their day-to-day tasks, application of mechanisation in the plantation management and sustainability practices. They were then taken on a tour of the Stenggang Oil Palm Estate, which covers over 2,609 hectares and produces yield around 6.39 metric tonnes of fresh fruit bunch (FFB) per ha (as of 2021).

Figure 1: Johanes, Stenggang OPE Assistant Estate Manager giving an operational briefing to the students and lecturers

Figure 2: Johanes explaining the benefits of an oil palm clone

Figure 3: Herman, Stenggang Estate Manager showing the cross section of oil palm fruit to the Shinshu University students

During the tour, the students had the opportunity to see the various stages of oil palm cultivation and management, from nursery establishment, field establishment and immature maintenance to harvesting, delivery and mature upkeep. They were shown the different types of machinery used in the process, including the mist blower and mini-dumper, and were given an explanation of how each machine worked.

The students were also introduced to various sustainability initiatives that have been implemented at the estate, such as the use of empty fruit bunch as organic fertiliser, and beneficial plants as integrated pest management. These initiatives are aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the industry and promoting sustainable practices.

Figure 4: Herman explaining the comparison between two different types of oil palm fruit

Figure 5: Johanes showing the practice of empty fruit bunch mulching at the estate

After the tour of the estate, the students visited BAPOM, where they were welcomed by Penny Nyapay, the Mill Manager. The visiting group were able to see the milling process in action after they were briefed about the business operations at the Mill by Saul Ribai anak Paul, the Mill Engineer. They were shown how FFB is processed to remove impurities and produce high-quality crude palm oil that meets industry standards.

Figure 6: Saul Ribai anak Paul, Mill Engineer briefed the students and lecturers about business operations in BAPOM

Throughout the visit, the students were encouraged to ask questions and engage in discussions with plantation and mill workers. They were keen to learn more about the industry and its impact on the environment and local communities.

Figure 7: Saul showing fibres extracted out of fresh fruit bunch to Shinshu university students

Figure 8: Penny Nyapay, the Mill Manager showing palm decanter cake to the Shinshu university students

Figure 9: Saul explaining the mill operation and management to the students and lecturers of Shinshu University

The visit was a valuable learning experience for the students, who were able to see first-hand how palm oil is produced and the efforts being made to promote sustainable practices in the industry. It also provided them with an opportunity to engage with expertise from the industry and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the palm oil sector in Malaysia.

Overall, the visit not only enhanced the students' education but also promoted greater understanding and cooperation between Japan and Malaysia in the palm oil industry and it is hoped similar initiatives will be organised in the near future to equip more students with knowledge and skills that would be instrumental in their academic and professional pursuits.

Figure 10: A group picture of the Shinshu University delegation and Stenggang Oil Palm Estate Management Team

Figure 11: A group picture of Shinshu university students and lecturers together with the Bau Palm Oil Mill Management team and staff at the FFB collection area in BAPOM

by Priscilla Grace Poul

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