Byproducts should not be wasted or be polluting

CAP draws attention to a report in a local English daily in August 2008 that the current chemical fertiliser import bill amounts to RM5 billion for the oil palm industry alone. The bill was estimated “to increase two fold due to higher petroleum and other commodity prices”. This is a frightening scenario.

As stated by the honourable Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Peter Chin in the same report, there are viable ways to reduce this large import bill for chemical fertilisers by the use of organic fertilisers and bio-fertilisers, including empty food bunches (EFB) and palm oil mill effluent (POME) that are by-products of palm oil industry.

A large part of the savings can then be used to help the poor in Malaysia during this period of inflation and increases in prices of necessities worldwide.

The strategy of promoting organic fertilisers should not be limited to just oil palm crops, but should be encouraged in the wider agricultural sector, where on-farm crop residues, compost, etc, are effective organic fertilisers.

This would limit the negative environmental impacts of chemical fertilisers, including their climate change impacts (nitrogen fertilisers account for about 0.6-1.2% of global greenhouse gas emissions), reduce the fertiliser import bill and increase soil fertility, leading to higher productivity.

Moreover, the technology for converting POME into methane biogas to generate energy is fairly established in the country already.

This has tremendous potential to provide an effective and efficient way to generate electricity, which can be used on-site, and if surplus exists, to be exported to the national grid.

Such use of biogas for energy generation would lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and help reduce our emissions that lead to climate change.

Biogas can be promoted in the wider agriculture sector as well, through the use of biogas digesters using on-farm “waste” from both crops and animals.

CAP urges the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry to:

— make the production of food crops as part of a strategic policy for the nation

— encourage the use of organic and bio-fertilisers

— introduce an incentive scheme to encourage the use of organic fertilisers

— support research and implementation on schemes on the use of agricultural and agro-based by-products

— investigate the potential of using biogas digesters to generate on-farm electricity

CAP urges the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to:

— encourage schools and universities to research and adapt ideas into technologies in the use of organic waste

— encourage NGOs to assist families and the local citizens with simple composting techniques in using organic waste

— set up working models in the recycling of organic waste for farms and plantations

— disseminate ideas to integrate good practices in industries to reduce and re-use waste

— institute tax incentives for farms and plantations to reuse the organic by-products

CAP urges the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment to:

— institute public education on the harmful effects of waste on natural resources.

— initiate community projects to reduce and reuse organic waste

— implement projects to restore the once pristine waterways, air quality and environment and to prevent them from harmful contaminations

CAP urges the Ministry of Industry and Commodities to:

— institute ranking of industries according to environmental friendliness

— introduce tax incentives in the reuse of wastes and local materials in industries

— introduce incentives for oil palm plantations to use EFB and POME for organic fertiliser and biogas generation

CAP urges the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications to:

— further facilitate and promote the development of renewable energy sources such as biogas

— increase targets for renewable energy generation under national development plans

With the concerted efforts carried out by the various agencies, it is without doubt that a large part of the savings can then be used to help the poor in Malaysia during this difficult economic period.