Sabah agrees to stop oil palm plantations in forest reserves

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal says any future plantation development, including oil palm plantations, will only be carried out on previous agricultural land or degraded land. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has backed the federal government’s stance on not allowing any more expansion of oil palm plantations into permanent forest reserves.

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal said the state government had, in fact, shifted its focus to rubber, fruits, timber plantation and cocoa, among others.

“Any future plantation development, including oil palm plantations, will only be carried out on previous agricultural land or degraded land.

”The Sabah government believes that balancing development and conservation to achieve a sustainable economy is paramount for Sabahans today and a hundred years from now,” he said in a statement today.

Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok had previously said that the government would not allow any more such expansions, adding that Malaysia was committed to maintaining its forest cover which stands at over 50% presently.

Shafie said Sabah’s commitment had been exemplified by the ban on the export of low economic return round logs since July 2018.

“(This) is part of our efforts to protect wildlife and to reform the forestry sector. A downstream business in timber products has been shown to bring more benefits to local communities.

“Sabah will work together with the federal government to enhance sustainable forest management practices to revitalise the sector as an important economic contributor to the country.”

He added that in view of the volatility of palm oil prices in a competitive edible oil environment, the state government would encourage and assist local farmers and smallholders to switch to other cash crops with better local and global demands.

“This is to protect the livelihoods of smallholders against overexposure to the fluctuations of the global palm oil prices which are beyond the control of the state,” he said.