Home TA Online Oil palm firm should reverse ‘zero-cattle’ policy

Oil palm firm should reverse ‘zero-cattle’ policy

The company's zero-cattle policy will result in the demolition of the cattle rearing industry in Sungai Siput and in many other parts of the country

An oil palm plantation in Malaysia - WIKIPEDIA

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On 28 February, 15 cattle farmers in Sungai Siput were summoned to a meeting by Sime Darby.

These 15 cattle farmers are former workers or children of workers in the estates owned by Sime Darby in Sungai Siput. Their families had started rearing cattle on the estate over 50 years ago, with the permission of the then estate management.

At the 28 February meeting held in Elphil Estate, Sime Darby announced that they have now adopted a “zero-cattle” policy for all their estates in Malaysia and that the cattle farmers had three months to transfer their cattle out of the estate. Any cattle found on the estate after that date would be caught and the owner fined.

Senior officers from the Sungai Siput Police station had also been invited to this meeting – to underline the seriousness of this newly defined ‘crime’ of grazing cattle on estate land, perhaps?

“Zero cattle” is a ridiculous proposition. Sime Darby should know that there are no vacant lands in the vicinity of Sungai Siput where these farmers can transfer the 900 head of cattle they are currently raising on the estates.

Sime Darby’s zero-cattle policy will result in the demolition of the cattle rearing industry in Sungai Siput and in many other parts of the country.

It will also mean the loss of the knowledge and skills that a group of our farmers have honed over the course of three generations. This knowledge and their skills are national assets that should be preserved and used to bolster the country’s self-sufficiency in food.

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Given that the country’s self-sufficiency in beef is only about 17% now and given that we are spending far too much on food imports (around RM70bn annually), Sime Darby’s new policy appears selfish and short-sighted.

Experts in agro-economics agree that it is beneficial to the nation to use oil palm plantations as grazing areas for cattle.

Natascha Grinnel et al in their paper entitled “Cattle-oil palm integration: A viable strategy to increase Malaysian beef self-sufficiency and palm oil sustainability”, published in Livestock Science Vol 259, May 2022, enumerate the benefits – cattle eat the undergrowth and reduce the need for herbicides, cattle droppings are useful manure, deforestation can be avoided and national food security enhanced.

Theirs is just one of several similar academic papers extolling the benefits of “cattle-oil palm integration”.

Deforestation and palm oil sustainability needs to be taken seriously. At present, about 70% of the 8.4 million hectares designated as agricultural land in Malaysia is used to cultivate oil palm.

If all plantation companies adopt Sime Darby’s whimsical decision to insist on zero cattle, then the country has two options – import more beef and milk or cut down some forest to create new grazing grounds for cattle. Given these facts, it would be irresponsible for Sime Darby to insist on this policy.

Sime Darby has to consider the possibility that the anti-palm oil lobby in Europe will label oil palm production in Malaysia as “non-sustainable” and in contravention of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil guidelines because of the potential for deforestation that emanates from this ill-advised policy.

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The 15 affected cattle farmers turned to the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) for help. We have drafted a letter to the top management in Sime Darby Plantations asking that they pause the implementation of the zero-cattle policy and instead have meetings with the cattle farmers to iron out the problems they might be creating for plantation management.

We hope Sime Darby will respond by having a rational dialogue with the cattle farmers. The plantation sector has been turning in handsome profits for the past 60 years despite doubling as grazing grounds for cattle.

It is in the interest of the nation for this practice to be continued. It will also be good for the palm oil industry for this issue to be resolved without too much fuss. 

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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13 Mar 2024 2.07pm

Cattle owner should take responsibility to look after their cattles. Most of owners have tidak apa attitude which leads alot problem in in the estates.

Vargis Cherian
Vargis Cherian
12 Mar 2024 9.36am

What is the use of talking about zero contamination? Cattle in the process of grazing are providing free fertilizer & also getting rid of all unnecessary weeds & grass from the plantation. The cattle can be kept away from nurseries by proper fencing. On the whole, it is a win-win situation for the plantations. Opportunities for the younger generation like herding, milking & meat sources are other assets that can be looked into. I was an ex-planter & I see more pros than cons in establishing this practice.

11 Mar 2024 8.33pm

Cattle dung on residential area has been an ongoing nuinsance since decades. Government should allocate land for grazing peacefully. We can’t have cattle intruding other peoples farmland, private area or even oil palm estates and such. Govt should solve this matter amicably with those involved. Cattle grazing freely is a nuinsance.

11 Mar 2024 8.16pm

Palm Estate uses heavy pesticides, chemical, fertilisers and these elements shall be consumed by the cattle during grazing. The milk and the meat are contaminated and are unsafe for human consumption. Human safety should be prioritised. The estate could provide a safer open ground for the herders.

11 Mar 2024 2.26pm

Obviously the cattles stampling the palm roots is not acceptable to many plantation owners.

11 Mar 2024 9.54am

The same goes to (a) Ladang … in Sg.Pelek Constitution too where 300 head of cattle’s were told to get their cattle’s out of the estate by … estate management n the owners were to attend a meeting August for a hearing.

10 Mar 2024 5.07pm

Maybe they want to use pesticide and some other chemicals that might harm the cattle and then they might be in trouble??? My opinion.

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