INDONESIA: Palm Oil Production Prospects Continue to Grow (2)

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Indonesia Geography 

The country of Indonesia is a huge archipelagic nation whose extent is roughly 3,200 miles east to west and 1,100 miles north to south.  It encompasses over 10,000 islands. The five main islands of the archipelago are Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi, and Western New Guinea. The islands of Borneo and Western New Guinea are shared with other nations.  Borneo (also known as Kalimantan) is shared with Malaysia and Brunei. Western New Guinea  (also known as Irian Jaya) shares the island of New Guinea with Papua New Guinea. Indonesia's total land area is slightly greater than 1.2 million square miles (the equivalent of Alaska, Texas, California and Montana combined).  In Indonesia, the province is the highest tier of subnational government. Currently, Indonesia consists of 33 provinces, seven of which have been created since 2000.  The island of Sumatra consists of the provinces of Daerah Istimewa Aceh, Riau, Jambi, Bengkulu, Lampung, and North, South, and West SumatraIndonesia's region of Borneo is called Kalimantan, while Malaysia's region of Borneo is called East Malaysia. On Borneo there are four Indonesian provinces, they are East, South, West and Central Kalimantan. 

FAS Field Visits 

Major oil producing provinces visited by FAS include: North Sumatra, Riau, and South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) on the island of Sumatra. On the island of Borneo, field visits were conducted on the province of West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Tengah).  Palm oil producing areas have slowly expanded since the early 20th century when the palm was first introduced. The island of Sumatra has long been the largest producer. The oldest large-scale plantations were first established in 1911 on Aceh and North Sumatra province. Since those early days, palm plantation development spread south and to the other areas of Indonesia. The highest producing provinces on Sumatra, are North Sumatra, Riau, and South Sumatra.  Even though the bulk of Indonesia’s production remains on Sumatra, 70 to 80 percent according to some sources, rapid expansion is occurring on the island of Borneo; the second largest producing area in Indonesia. In recent years, there has been a growing expansion of palm oil plantations on the island of Borneo—particularly in Central and West Kalimantan.  Important, but secondary areas of expansion are Sulawesi and Western New Guinea  (or West Papua).  Even with the expansion areas, Sumatra will continue to be the leading production center for the foreseeable future.

The following image is a satellite scene and FAS field travel routes (in yellow) that covered major palm oil producing provinces on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. 

Area Expansion 

Over the next few years, the pace of Indonesian palm oil production is expected to dominate other producing countries and rise steadily, assuming continued high prices and favorable weather. This continued increase in production is a result of area expansion. It is the availability of land on Borneo and other previously non-developed areas that has allowed Indonesia to become the top producer. The current (December) USDA production forecast of 2007/08 Indonesia Palm Oil is 18.3 million tons.  This a 10 percent increase from last year's estimated production of 16.6 million tons.  Production of palm oil has continued to climb steadily since 1998. New regions on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and West Papua have been opened up in recent years and have added significant area that only now is coming on-stream in terms of production.  In addition to new areas of land developed, another reason for the growing production numbers is that the surge in planting activity during the past ten years is now beginning to be realized.  There is several years lag time when palms are initially planted on the plantation until the first production of fruit bunches.  Data on actual area planted to oil palm is not easily obtained.  Where government data does exist, many in the industry believe that the government data is not as complete as it might be, often having production estimates lower than those of the industry. One proxy source of area data is oil palm seed sales.  Data presented at the International Palm Oil Congress 2007 on seed sales reveals a rapid increase in demand, so much that seed producers have had difficultly keeping up with demand. 

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