Palm O’corner 2020 at Palangkaraya University: Palm Oil Industry as a Solutions in the Pandemic and New Normal Era
Palm O’Corner is an annual program of the PASPI (Palm Oil Agribusiness Strategic Policy Institute) held at universities throughout Indonesia. The event was held again on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Unlike the previous year which was held with a seminar format at six universities such as IPB, UISU and Unsri, Palm O’Corner in this year which was held in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic was held through the Zoom application. Although the event was held virtually, it did not prevent the holding of interactive sharing and discussion sessions between palm oil stakeholders, academics and students who raised current topics on the palm oil industry. In addition, this opportunity also provides an appropriate space to share information and counter negative issues on palm oil industry based on valid data and facts, so as to correct misunderstandings of students and millennial generations who have been provoked by the black campaign.
In 2020, PASPI collaborated with the Himpunan Mahasiswa Jurusan Ekonomi Pembangunan to hold a Palm O’Corner Webinar at University of Palangkaraya. With the theme “Economicovid-Palm Oil in Central Kalimantan: Economic Immunity, Locomotive of Economic Recovery and Sustainability”, this webinar presented competent speakers in their fields, including Dr. Tungkot Sipayung (PASPI Executive Director); Dr. Andrie Elia, SE., M.Si (Rector of University of Palangkaraya); Dwi Darmawan (Chairperson of GAPKI Central Kalimantan); Ir. Rawing Rambang, MP, (Head of the Central Kalimantan Provincial Plantation Service or Dinas Perkebunan); Yudo Herlambang (Chairperson of the Economic Development & Advisory Team from the Bank Indonesia Representative Office of Central Kalimantan Province) and Widodo (Plt DPW Apkasindo of Central Kalimantan).
The event was opened with the presentation of Keynote Speech from the Economy and Business Faculty Dean of University of Palangkaraya, Dr. Miar SE., M.Sc. In the session, Dr. Miar also gives a picture of how the development of economic growth in Central Kalimantan in the Q1-2020. Central Kalimantan’s economic growth rate experienced in this period (2.95%) was lower than Q4-2019 (6.02%). The slowdown in Central Kalimantan’s economic growth was a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Based on the explanation from the representative of Bank Indonesia in Central Kalimantan Province, it was revealed that the economic slowdown in Central Kalimantan compared to the previous quarter was due to the weakening of the performance of agriculture and the processing industry and the contraction in construction performance. Central Kalimantan’s economy is still dependent on natural resources, one of which is plantations and the palm oil industry which has a share of around 36% of the economy of Central Kalimantan. The decline in FFB and CPO production as well as the decline in global CPO prices due to declining demand of importers became one of the main factors that caused the economic slowdown in Central Kalimantan.
Head of the Central Kalimantan Plantation Service (read: Dinas Perkebunan) also revealed that although Covid-19 influenced the economy of Central Kalimantan, in general it did not affect the development performance of oil palm plantations and palm oil milling. This can be seen from as many as 118 palm oil milling still operating, employment in large oil palm plantations also remains high, reaching more than 165 thousand employee.
The Chairman of the Central Kalimantan branch of GAPKI also revealed that the oil palm plantation company has also implemented the “GAPKI Protocol against Covid-19” so that the operations of the plantation will continue and there will be no cluster of transmission originating from oil palm plantations. In contrast to other industries which sever a lot of layoff employees, but this has not occured at oil palm plantations, even the right of employees to get the religious holiday allowance of Idul Fitri 1441 H can be paid all at once. Oil palm plantation companies that are members of GAPKI also provide assistance in the form of personal protectice equipment, masks, hygiene products to medical personal in hospitals and health centers. In addition, food aid was also provided by plantation companies to the people of Central Kalimantan.
Not only are palm oil plantation companies that continue to operate and are not too affected by Covid-19, oil palm farmers are also able to survive in this pandemic. In exposure from Plt DPW Apkasindo Central Kalimantan showed that the price of FFB during the pandemic was relatively better than the same period in 2019, although there were cases of farmers who received lower FFB prices because the palm oil milling that not obey and did not follow the stipulation of the FFB prices of the Provincial Plantation Service. The better price of FFB also has implications farmers can fulfill for staple food, so farmers do not need to be recipients of social assistance from the government, instead many oil palm farmers who do social care for the community around the plantation.
Dr. Tungkot Sipayung also explained how the palm oil industry remained an economic locomotive that contributed to the national economy during the Covid-19 pandemic. The palm oil industry has a high immunity so that the production and export of palm oil remains stable even the accumulation value of the exports of palm oil and its derivatives in the January-April 2020 period is higher than the same period in 2019. Covid-19 pandemic is also a lesson for the palm oil industry, because this industry successfully generate products needed by people around the world to fight the Corona virus such as various products used to maintain hygiene such as soap, hand sanitizer, detergent, disinfectant, and micronutrient products needed by the body to boosting immune system such as Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin E and Palmitic Acid.
Based on the explanation from the panelists in the webinar, it showed that the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on the economic slowdown in Central Kalimantan. But on the other hand, this pandemic is also able to show that the palm oil industry is still able to become a locomotive that continues to drive the economy of Central Kalimantan province in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Seeing the large potential demand for various processed palm products needed by the world community to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, this is an additional “coal” to further move the locomotive of the palm oil industry in order to recovery the economy in the New Normal era.
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