The Immunities of Palm Oil Industry Become a Strong Economic-Covid Locomotive in Q1-2020

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Since March 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak has been declared as a pandemic because its spread has been increasingly widespread in almost all countries and until now the number of world cases continues to increase. Beside to causing hundreds thousands of deaths, Covid-19 and lockdown policies in order to reduce the transmission of the spread of the virus also have an impact on the stopping of economic activity temporarily. This condition cause economic growth in some countries to slow down.

OECD  has released data about economic growth of G20 countries in Q1-2020. China as the initial country infected with the Covid-19 virus, also has experienced negative economic growth about -9.8 percent. European Union countries also experienced a slowdown in the economy such as France (-5.8 percent), Spain (-5.2 percent), Italy (-4.7 percent) and Germany (-1.4 percent). The US as a superpower country also experienced an economic slowdown of -1.2 percent

The Covid-19 epidemic also had an impact on Indonesia’s economic growth. According to BPS, Indonesia’s economy in the first quarter of 2020 grew by 2.97 (YoY), where the Indonesian economy also slowed when compared to the first quarter of 2019 which was 5.07 percent. Meanwhile, the Indonesian economy in the first quarter of 2020 also experienced a contraction toward quarter IV-2019 (q-to-q) of 2.41 percent. Indonesia’s slowing economic growth occurred in most business fields.

Among the many economic and industrial sectors affected by the decline in economic activity such as the cessation of production activities in the current pandemic period, but until now the impact has not been felt by the palm oil industry. In fact, the role of the palm oil industry as the locomotive of Indonesia’s economy still exists amid the threat of the Covid-19 outbreak.

This is because the palm oil industry has the immunity and resilience to survive amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Oil palm plantations as the spearhead of the palm oil industry are quite advantageous because of its location in remote areas far from the city center. In addition, low man-land and man-space ratio and the solid automation show that the pattern of work in oil palm plantations that have been spaced with minimum human interaction or have implemented natural physical distancing so it can minimize the virus transmission and have implemented a health protocol.

The input that used in oil palm plantations are also mostly from local input, meaning that it is not affected by the import market which is experiencing obstacles due to a pandemic. Oil palm plantations in remote areas are also contribute to the independence of the rural or regional economy due to the symbiosis of mutualism between oil palm plantation communities and rural communities that produce food, horticultural and livestock needs.

In the downstream side, palm oil is a versatile input cause can produces food products such as cooking oil, margarine, biscuits etc. as well as hygiene products (personal care) such as soap, detergents, hand sanitizers to biodisinfectants, where these products are needed by people in the current pandemic. This condition has implications that the palm oil industry from upstream to downstream are an industry that is not included in the economic sector that is lockdown due to Covid-19.

The implication of the strong immunity of the palm industry in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic also creates high immunity of economy based on palm oil. It can be seen from the operations both at the upstream to downstream levels are still running normally and there are no oil palm company has closed or laid off its employees. APKASINDO also reported that there were additional workers in oil palm plantations from people who had previously worked in the non-palm oil industry that was laid-off by their company.

One of indicators of the palm oil industry remained normal during the pandemic can be seen from stable palm oil production. Based on GAPKI data (2020), palm oil production (CPO + PKO) increased from 3.81 million tons in January 2020 to 4.04 million tons in April 2020. Although in February and March, the production decreased to 3.61 million tons and 3.58 million tons respectively, but the declining in palm oil production is normal and occurs every year (Figure 1).

The Indonesian export performance of palm oil and derivative products also showed a fairly good performance in the early quarter of 2020. Based on BPS’s data, the export volume of palm oil and its derivatives have increased from 2.39 million tons to 2.65 million tons.

The export value of palm oil and its derivatives also showed an increase from USD 1.69 billion to USD 1.82 billion during the January-March 2020 period. However, the export value decreased to USD 1.64 billion in April 2020. One of the factors that influenced the decline in the value of exports was caused by the decline in CPO prices. CPO prices (CIF Rotterdam) in MPOB’s website showed that decreased from USD 831 per ton to USD 562 per ton in the January-April 2020 period. The decline in CPO prices is a result of the decline in global demand due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and lockdown policies in various importing countries.

Palm oil value & volume exports

Despite the decline in the exports value during this period, but cumulative exports value of palm oil products have contributed to foreign exchange exports reached USD 7 billion. Palm oil exports also contributed to Indonesia’s trade balance surplus of USD 2.62 billion in quarter I-2020.

The data and facts above shows the large role of the palm oil industry as an economic locomotive in the middle of Covid-19 pandemic and the recovery in the New Normal era. A long as the sun still shining on the earth, the plants can still produce palm oil and other biomass products, so that the palm oil as a economic locomotive will continue to move and produce benefits and multiplier effects that can save the national economy amid potential global economic recession due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sejak maret 2020, wabah Covid-19 sudah dinyatakan sebagai pandemi karena penyebaran semakin meluas hampir di seluruh negara dan hingga saat ini jumlah kasus dunia terus meningkat. Selain menyebabkan ratusan ribu korban jiwa yang meninggal, Covid-19 dan kebijakan lockdown dalam rangka mengurangi transmisi penyebaran virus juga berdampak pada berhentinya secara sementara aktivitas ekonomi. Kondisi ini menyebabkan pertumbuhan ekonomi beberapa negara mengalami perlambatan.

OECD merilis data negara G20 yang mengalami pertumbuhan ekonomi negatif pada triwulan pertama (q-to-q) tahun 2020 antara lain (OECD, 2020): China (-9.8 persen), Perancis (-5.8 persen), Spanyol (-5.2 persen), Italia (-4.7 persen), Jerman (-1.4 persen), Korea Selatan (-1.4 persen), Amerika Serikat (-1.2 persen), dan Jepang (-0.6 persen).

Wabah Covid-19 juga berdampak pada pertumbuhan ekonomi Indonesia. Menurut data BPS, ekonomi Indonesia di triwulan pertama tahun 2020 tumbuh sebesar 2.97 (YoY), dimana perekonomian Indonesia juga melambat jika dibandingkan dengan triwulan-I tahun 2019 yang sebesar 5.07 persen. Sementara itu, ekonomi Indonesia pada triwulan I-2020 juga mengalami kontraksi terhadap triwulan IV-2019 (q-to-q) sebesar 2.41 persen. Perlambatan pertumbuhan ekonomi Indonesia terjadi di sebagian besar lapangan usaha.

Diantara banyak sektor ekonomi dan industri yang terkena dampak dari penurunan kegiatan ekonomi seperti terhentinya kegiatan produksi di masa pandemi saat ini, namun hingga saat ini dampak tersebut belum terlalu dirasakan oleh industri sawit. Bahkan, peran industri sawit sebagai lokomotif ekonomi Indonesia tetap eksis di tengah ancaman wabah Covid-19.

Hal ini  disebabkan karena industri sawit memiliki imunitas dan reseliensi untuk tetap bertahan di tengah pandemi Covid-19. Kebun sawit sebagai ujung tombak industri sawit cukup diuntungkan karena letaknya yang berada di pelosok daerah yang jauh dari pusat kota. Selain itu, man-land and man-space ratio yang rendah serta padat otomasi menunjukkan bahwa pola kerja di kebun sawit yang sudah berjarak dengan interaksi antar manusia yang minimum atau telah menerapkan natural physical distancing sehingga dapat meminimalisir transmisi virus dan telah menerapkan himbauan protokoler kesehatan.

Input yang digunakan pada perkebunan sawit juga sebagian besar input lokal, artinya tidak terpengaruh pada pasar impor yang mengalami hambatan akibat pandemi. Perkebunan sawit di daerah pelosok juga turut berkontribusi dalam kemandirian ekonomi pedesaan atau daerah karena adanya simbiosis mutualisme antara masyarakat perkebunan sawit dengan masyarakat pedesaan yang memproduksi kebutuhan pangan, hortikultural dan peternakan.

Di sisi industri hilir, minyak sawit adalah bahan baku yang versatile karena dapat menghasilkan produk pangan seperti minyak goreng, margarin, biskuit dll serta produk higenitas (personal care) seperti sabun, deterjen, hand sanitizer hingga biodisinfektan, dimana produk-produk tersebut dibutuhkan oleh masyarakat di masa pandemi seperti saat ini. Kondisi ini berimplikasi pada industri sawit baik dari hulu hingga hilir merupakan industri yang tidak termasuk sektor ekonomi yang di-lockdown­-kan akibat Covid-19.

Implikasi dari kuatnya imunitas industri sawit di tengah pandemi Covid-19 juga melahirkan imunitas ekonomi industri sawit yang tinggi. Hal tersebut dapat dilihat dari operasional baik pada level hulu hingga hilir masih tetap berjalan normal sehingga belum ada perusahaan perkebunan sawit yang tutup atau melakukan PHK terhadap karyawannya. Bahkan pengurus APKASINDO melaporkan ada tambahan tenaga kerja di perkebunan sawit yang berasal dari masyarakat yang sebelumnya bekerja di industri non sawit yang dirumahkan.

Salah satu indikator operasional industri sawit yang tetap normal di masa pandemi dapat terlihat dari produksi minyak sawit Indonesia yang tetap stabil. Berdasarkan data GAPKI, produksi minyak sawit (CPO+PKO) mengalami peningkatan dari 3.81 juta ton pada Januari 2020 menjadi 4.04 juta ton pada April 2020. Meskipun pada Februari dan Maret mengalami penurunan produksi berturut-turut menjadi 3.61 juta ton dan 3.58 juta ton, namun penurunan produksi minyak sawit tersebut merupakan hal wajar dan terjadi setiap tahun.

Kinerja ekspor minyak sawit dan produk turunan Indonesia juga menunjukkan kinerja yang cukup baik pada kuartal awal di tahun 2020. Berdasarkan data BPS menyebutkan volume ekspor minyak sawit dan produk turunannya mengalami peningkatan yakni dari 2.39 juta ton menjadi 2.65 juta ton selama periode Januari-April 2020.

Nilai ekspor minyak sawit dan produk turunannya juga menunjukkan peningkatan dari USD 1.69 miliar menjadi USD 1.82 miliar selama periode Januari-Maret 2020. Namun, nilai ekspor tersebut mengalami penurunan menjadi USD 1.64 miliar pada April 2020. Salah satu faktor yang mempengaruhi penurunan nilai ekspor disebabkan karena menurunnya harga CPO. Harga CPO CIF Rotterdam dalam website Index Mundi mengalami penurunan dari USD 831 per ton menjadi USD 562 per ton pada periode Januari-April 2020. Penurunan harga CPO ini sebagai dampak dari penurunan demand global akibat mewabahnya Covid-19 dan kebijakan lockdown di berbagai negara importir.

Meskipun terjadi penurunan nilai ekspor selama periode tersebut, namun secara kumulatif nilai ekspor minyak sawit dan produk turunannya berhasil menyumbang devisa ekspor dengan nilai mencapai USD 7 miliar. Ekspor produk sawit juga turut berkontribusi terhadap surplus neraca perdagangan Indonesia dengan nilai mencapai USD 2.62 miliar pada kuartal I-2020.

Data dan fakta di atas menunjukkan besarnya peran industri minyak sawit sebagai lokomotif ekonomi di tengah pandemi Covid-19 maupun pemulihan di era New Normal.  Sepanjang matahari masih menyinari bumi, maka tanaman kelapa sawit masih dapat menghasilkan minyak dan produk biomassa sehingga lokomotif sawit akan terus bergerak dan menghasilkan manfaat dan multiplier effect yang dapat menyelamatkan perekonomian nasional di tengah potensi resesi ekonomi dunia akibat outbreak Covid-19.

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