Columns
Oil palm harvesting – looking for better ways
Mahbob Abdullah | 03 Aug 2018 00:30
The plantation industry can survive only through improved productivity. The search goes on and one way is to find a better tool to cut oil palm fruit bunches. Recently at a planters’ conference in Kuala Lumpur, I visited the exhibition and was sufficiently impressed to write about it in this column.

As a boy in the 1950s, I had often stood to watch a worker climb a tall palm to cut the bunches with an axe. Of course, he would not be able to cut many bunches as he would have to pick his footing on his way down and climb up another tree.

That would not work today as we have planted over five million hectares of oil palm in the country and that would be over 700 million trees that would need harvesting, and if it is to be done on a 10-day round, that would mean about 70 million trees to be visited each day.

Harvesting has improved over the years as climbing stopped and bamboo poles were used with the sickle at the end, and the best cutters seem to come from Lombok or Sulawesi. With ease, they can cut the bunch using the tip of the sickle to find the stalk of the bunch high up above them and in two or three pulls will bring the bunch down.

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