The palm industry is still a promising industry for the Indonesian economy. Besides, it contributes toward regional economic development, especially in Eastern Indonesia. Palm trees have become a promising commodity in the area, especially in West Papua.
The area of palm tree plantations across Indonesia was 16.38 million hectares. Meanwhile, the area of palm trees plantation in Eastern Indonesia was 553,952 hectares. It is 3.38 percent of the total area of palm tree plantations in Indonesia. The area included Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua.
In Papua Province, 58,656 hectares area was planted with the trees. Those plantations were located in Nabire, Jayapura, Keerom, Boven Digoel, Mappu, and Merauke. Meanwhile, West Papua Province hosted 110,496 hectares of palm trees area. It was a huge number compared to the Papua Province, considering the area was smaller than its neighboring region. The plantations were located in Manokwari, Sorong, South Sorong, Maybrat, Teluk Bintuni, and Fak Fak.
The Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, stated that the potential for palm trees development in Eastern Indonesia should be continued. The Deputy aimed at eradicating poverty and encouraging economic development in the region. Musdhalifah Machmud also wished that it could induce a multi-player effect.
Means to eradicate poverty have been carried out through the Rejuvenation of Palm Oil program. In the 2020-2022 period, the rejuvenation target reached 540 thousand hectares. It would be carried out in 21 provinces and involve more than 43 thousand gardeners. For Papua, the target reached six thousand hectares. Meanwhile, the Ministry would rejuvenate three thousand hectares of palm plantation in West Papua.
This program was supported by the Executive Director of Palm Oil Agribusiness Strategic Policy Institute. Tungkot Sipayung stated that palm plantation helped develop new economic development in Papua. Sipayung claimed that the plantation granted at least two benefits: reducing the poverty rate in villages and creating new jobs.
Palm Oil Industry for Agriculture Development in Papua
According to Presidential Decree no. 05 of 2007, the Indonesian government would speed up the agricultural development in West Papua. However, the implementation faced many obstacles.
The common issues of agricultural development in Papua came from various aspects. The main obstacles in the development were the small development investment, low skills, availability of human resources, limited infrastructure for transportation, harbor stowage, irrigation network, and limited adoption of agriculture technology.
No security warrant for investors also made investors refuse to invest in the area. Social, cultural, and political conditions were also unconducive for agribusiness.
Those conditions made it hard for the Indonesian government to implement the program. Suppose the government is willing to implement the principles of stability in economic development and natural resources preservation, increase production and market development, and community empowerment; those obstacles are nothing. Both regional and national governments would rake in a fortune from the investment.
The low number and quality of human resources should be overcome by migrating some experts based on needs. The difference in technical mastery and work ethics between migrants and local people should be overcome with a program that would not provoke a conflict. The point is the government should pay attention to any obstacles and be able to address them well.
Huge Potential of Palm Plantation in West Papua
Based on Indonesian Center for Agricultural Socio-Economic and Policy Studies research, the land in Eastern Indonesia is suitable for agricultural and palm plantation. Some palm businessmen heard the research results and some companies tried to expand their territory to the area. One of them was Medco Agro.
According to the Corporate Communication of Medco Agro Syaiful Panigoro, the step was taken for the good of Indonesia. However, some non-governmental organizations opposed the idea. They argued that the plantation would only ruin the environment and nature. Responding to this, Governor Muhammad Lakotani stated that the government would strive to save nature. However, they also did not limit the possibility of investment.