The History of Indonesian Palm Oil Development Since Colonialization Era

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Perhaps many of peole do not know that Indonesian oil palm plantations come from germplasm plants collection at the Bogor Botanical Gardens. Not only in Indonesia, but oil palm tree in Malaysia also comes from the Bogor Botanical Gardens.

palm oil

De Oliepalm’s publications (Hunger, 1917; Hunger, 1924) and Investigations on Oil palms (Rutgers et al., 1922) were the first publications that spreading information about the origins of palm oil development in Indonesia. In 1848, it was the first year that oil palm was introduced to Indonesia. Four seeds were brought from Bourbon by the Dutch government for planted in the Bogor Botanical Gardens. The planting of the seeds is not only part of the germplasm collection in the Bogor Botanical Gardens, but also as a process of acclimation (environmental adaptation) of oil palm plants.

In 1858, the Secretary of the Dutch Colonial Office in the Dutch East Indies invited the Netherland Government to plant oil palm in Indonesia. Furthermore, 146 lots of oil palm seeds were distributed to Java, Madura, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Nusa Tenggara. Before 1860, the Dutch colonial also developed an experimental oil palm plantations, the area is about 3.4 hectares in Banyumas and 0.74 hectares in Palembang.

Then in 1875, oil palm seeds originated from the Bogor Botanical Gardens were sent and planted in the Deli Sumatra District and four years later it was reported that they were growing very well. The lack of publication about the benefits of palm oil at that time led to the absence of an oil palm plantation industry before 1911.

But in the era of Industrial Revolution that occured in the mid-19th century, there was an increse of demand for vegetable oils, one of them was palm oil. Therefore, oil palm plantation began to be cultivated and commercially in the Dutch East Indies since 1911. One of the entrepreneurs is  Belgian citizen named Adrien Hallet, who developed oil palm plantation in the East Sumatra region which included Pulo Raja (Asahan) and Liput River (Aceh).

At the same time, K.Schadt, a German citizen, also planted 2 thousand of oil palm seeds in Tanah Itam Ulu. This is a sign of the early period of oil palm plantation development in Indonesia.

In the colonial era, the structure of oil palm plantations in both the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and the Malay Peninsula (Malaysia) was generally carried out by foreign private companies which were characterized by capital-intensive and labor-intensive investments.

The successfull story of commercialization of trials plantation has encouraged the development of a oil palm plantation in massive scale. The processing of oil palm fruit fruit bunch (FFB) has also begun in the palm oil milling which was first built in Sei Liput in 1918. In addition, the export of Indonesian crude palm oil (CPO) was also carried out for the first time in 1919.

During the time of the Japanese position, the development of oil palm plantations decreased by 16% of the total land area. Once exported 250 thousand tons of palm oil in 1940, then palm oil production in Indonesia only reached 56 thousand tons in 1948. Unfortunately, during that period, many oil palm plantations and mills were replaced with food crops, so the activity in the palm oil industry was stopped.

Indonesia’s CPO export once reached of 250 thousand tons o in 1940, but it’s production continued to decline reaching only 56 thousand tons in 1948. During that period, the decline of oil palm plantations and mills was increasingly evident, as indicated by the replacement of oil palm with food crops . This condition indicates that the oil palm industrial activities stopped during the Japanese colonialism era.

Now, oil palm plantation has grown in more than 255 districts from Aceh to Papua. In these areas, they have provided multifunctional for people both in Indonesia and the world. From the four oil palm seeds planted in Bogor Botanical Garden, Indonesia has now become the world’s largest producer of palm oil since 2006 and has generated billions of US dollars each year of foreign exchange for Indonesia. Even in the midst of the pandemic and the current threat of a global economic recession, the palm oil industry able to become the locomotive that drives and saves the Indonesian economy.

Mungkin banyak yang belum mengetahui bahwa kebun sawit Indonesia berasal dari tanaman plasma nutfah yang ada di Kebun Raya Bogor. Bukan hanya kelapa sawit yang ada di Indonesia, namun kelapa sawit yang ada di Malaysia juga berasal dari Kebun Raya Bogor.

palm oil

Publikasi De Oliepalm (Hunger, 1917; Hunger, 1924) dan Investigations on Oilpalms (Rutgers et al.,1922) menjadi publikasi pertama yang menyebarkan informasi mengenai awal mula perkembangan kelapa sawit di Indonesia. Tahun 1848 menjadi tahun yang sangat bersejarah bagi perkembangan kelapa sawit saat ini karena tahun tersebut merupakan pertama kali kelapa sawit diintroduksi ke Indonesia. Empat biji buah kelapa sawit dibawa dari dari Bourbon oleh pemerintah Kolonial Belanda untuk ditanam di Kebun Raya Bogor. Penanaman empat bibit kelapa sawit tersebut selain bagian dari koleksi palsma nutfah di Kebun Raya Bogor, tetapi juga sebagai proses aklimitisasi (adaptasi lingkungan) tanaman kelapa sawit.

Pada tahun 1858, Sekretaris Kantor Kolonial Belanda di Hindia Belanda mengajak Pemerintah a Belanda untuk menanam kelapa sawit di Indonesia. Selanjutnya, sebanyak 146 lot benih kelapa sawit didistribusikan ke Jawa, Madura, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, dan Nusa Tenggara. Sebelum 1860, pemerintah Kolonial Belanda juga mengembangkan kebun percobaan kelapa sawit yaitu sekitar 3.4 hektar di Banyumas dan 0.74 hektar di Palembang.

Kemudian di tahun 1875, benih kelapa sawit yang berasal dari Kebun Raya Bogor dikirim dan ditanam di Distrik Deli Sumatra dan empat tahun kemudian dilaporkan tumbuh dengan sangat baik. Minimnya publikasi mengenai manfaat kelapa sawit pada masa tersebut menyebabkan tidak adanya industri perkebunan kelapa sawit sebelum 1911.

Namun di era Revolusi Industri yang terjadi pada pertengahan abad ke-19, terjadi peningkatan permintaan minyak nabati, salah satunya minyak sawit. Oleh karena itu, kelapa sawit mulai diusahakan dan dibudidayakan secara komersial  di Hindia Belanda sejak tahun 1911. Salah satu pengusaha merupakan warga negara Belgia bernama Adrien Hallet yang mengembangkan perkebunan kelapa sawit di wilayah Sumatera bagian Timur yang mencakup Pulo Raja (Asahan) dan Sungai Liput (Aceh).

Pada saat yang bersamaan, perkebunana sawit juga dikembangkan oleh K. Schadt, seorang warga negara berkebangsaan Jerman, yang menanam 2 ribu bibit kelapa sawit di Tanah Itam Ulu. Hal tersebut menjadi tanda lahirnya perkebunan kelapa sawit di Indonesia.

Pada era kolonial, tatanan perkebunan kelapa sawit baik di Hindia Belanda (Indonesia) maupun Semenanjung Malaya (Malaysia) umumnya dilakukan oleh perusahaan swasta asing yang memiliki ciri khas yakni investasi padat modal dan padat tenaga buruh.

Keberhasilan ujicoba komersial tersebut mendorong pengembangan kebun sawit komersial dengan skala yang lebih masif. Pengolahan buah kelapa sawit juga sudah mulai dilakukan di pabrik pengolahan kelapa sawit yang pertama kali dibangun di Sei Liput tahun 1918. Selain itu, ekspor minyak sawit (CPO) Indonesia juga pertama kali dilakukan pada tahun 1919.

Pada zaman kedudukan Jepang, perkembangan usaha perkebunan kelapa sawit  mengalami penyusutan hampir sebesar 16% dari total luas perkebunan eksisting. Ekspor CPO Indonesia pernah mencapai 250 ribu ton di tahun 1940, namun produksi minyak sawit terus mengalami penurunan dengan hanya mencapai 56 ribu ton pada tahun 1948. Pada periode tersebut, kemunduran perkebunan dan pabrik kelapa sawit juga semakin terlihat yang ditunjukkan dengan digantikannya kelapa sawit dengan tanaman pangan. Kondisi ini menandakan kegiatan industri kelapa sawit terhenti di masa kolonialisme Jepang.

Kini, perkebunan sawit telah berkembang pada di lebih 255 kabupaten mulai dari Aceh sampai ke Papua. Di daerah-daerah tersebut kebun sawit telah memberikan multifungsi untuk masyarakat baik di Indonesia, maupun masyarakat dunia. Dari empat bibit sawit yang ditanam di Kebun Raya Bogor, kini telah mengantarkan Indonesia menjadi produsen minyak sawit terbesar dunia sejak tahun 2006 dan menghasilkan devisa untuk Indonesia milyaran dollar Amerika Serikat  setiap tahunnya. Bahkan ditengah pandemi dan ancaman resesi ekonomi global yang terjadi saat ini, industri sawit sekali lagi mampu menjadi lokomotif bangsa yang menggerakkan dan menyelamatkan perekonomian Indonesia.

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