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May 21, 2018

3/5/18 SAGO - PROSPECT AND THE DARK SIDE OF THE COMMODITY (DRAFT)

INTRODUCTION:

Sago, sagu, sasak, rumbia, lumbia, masago yashi as the plant is internationally; Indonesian, Papua, Malay, Tagloq and Japanese-wise known is a very unique and Allah blesses plant. In Latin it is known as Metroxylon sagu. This is the limited plant species that bears starch in its trunk as compares to others which are either tubers and or cereals. Sago belong to the palmae plant family. Sago is among the few palms that bear starch in the trunk as compares to other palm species which mostly bear fruits of different types vis coconut, nipah, areca, etc. To the native of Brazil, Borneo, Papua etc, the real delicacy of sago is the sago warm (the larvae of rhinoceros beetle), the milky high protein stuff taste as peanut once roasted as many said, but I dare not try. In Sarawak, if one visit Mukah, a coastal town in mid Sarawak, one can have a try on this delicacy.

(2) My aim of writing this article, is to support international interest over the plant as source of human energy, pharmaceutical, biofuel, and even for the aquaculture and livestock feed development. I believe, based on my experiences, knowledge and even personal perception, this plant warrant a just treatment as a gift from Allah for all humankind. I'm having a strong believe that after Taib Mahmud is no more the Chief Minister of Sarawak and with the hunger for faster return of investment; ROI, Sarawak will not be able to succeed to make sago as its prime agriculture commodity. Accordingly after Peter Chin had left MoPIC, the interest over sago at the Federal Ministry level is subsiding fast. I dare to say, Sago Industry in Sarawak (and Malaysia) will die to its natural course. Thus, I have lost patient and passion to see the growth of Sago Industry in Sarawak, thus I would like to throw this idea of Sago great prospects for international people to pick it up especially among the Japanese, Chinese and Indian. Nonetheless, Mahathir now is back as the PM of Malaysia where in his era, sago plus jatropa and kenaf had been identified as new agriculture growth area. MoPIC was then tasked to advance the R&D on these crops. Now he is back, will he still remember his directive on the matter?

(3) This writing is not a comprehensive presentation of Sago as a whole, but as much as possible I'll dwell on its key economic, agronomic resource, and some technical advantages over especially oil palm and rice. My direct involvement in the sago industry began in 2003, but I need to leave the whole system by 2011. There are substantial writing on the sago technicality and or ethno-botany available in the internets, but very less on the economic and commercial aspect of its. Accordingly, the primitive sustenance of the Indonesia and PNG sago industry is all about the incapability of their government in dealing with the heritage Customary  Land Tenure System of the Far East Pacific. Papua and Papua New Guinea plus all those sago islands in the eastern Indonesia, not only they could meet the vision of Isao Nagato, but most important, the nurturing and advancement of the sago commodity from my personal perspective, definitely would transformed their people livelihood be even better than of the oil palm industries. Sago is starch-based, a non-competitor to oil palm and alike. Maize and potatoes can be the threat to the development of sago industry and vice versa. Australia interest to protect marshland forest of PNG and Indonesia, I would say may have such agenda in their mind if not for reason to sustain their marine resources. Mismanagement of the PNG and Papua marshland can be a catastrophe for the South Pacific marine resources.

ECONOMIC:

(1) Sarawak is the world champion for sago industry. Since 1880s, Sarawak is world sago exporter despite probably having the least area of natural sago. Sarawak had developed the finest processing technology which is home grown by a cartel of smallscale industrialists. The pioneer in Sarawak sago industrial development, I would believe began in Sibu. The Foo Chow ethnic Chinese whom dominate Sibu in those day, due to the peaty land nature of the region, they couldn't grow rice, thus learning from the local natives particularly the Malanaus, they then took sago as their staple food. But as time progress and due to resource locational advantage, Mukah then began to take on Sibu as key sago industrial development. Unfortunately since 1980s, sago industrial development remain stagnant due to resources problem. Papua (Indonesia) and Papua New Guinea are homes for the world natural sago. In both Countries, they have at least 5.00 million hectares of natural sago land. I can foresee the diminishing of sago industry in Sarawak is mainly due for Sarawakian had been seeing sago nothing beyond the linut ie boild sago flour and or dried sago granule which has very limiting acceptance as source of food even among the local. Thailand despite having lesser sago area within the Nara-Pattani region, their sago food-based application industry is doing far better than Sarawak. Indonesia, definitely is the world largest sago flour producer, but due to their large population, their sago is all eaten as bakso. The PNG sago industry had remained as the traditional Sarawak in the 1930s. 

(2) The international interest over sago was officially recorded in 1976 when an International Sago Symposium was first held in Kuching through the initiative of the Dr. Isao Nagato who provided financial support to fund the Society for the Sago Palm and Sago Culture of Japan (presently the Society of Sago Palm Studies). Being in the army in the WWII he had seen the human famine miseries at such time, thus Nagato realized sago could be the solution to the possible human and fuel hunger crisis of the 21st century. Thereon, he initiated various studies and seminar on sago.

(3) The economic of sago couldn't be well comprehend without one looking at it from the comprehensive agronomic and industrial applications. Let me presented a brief economic and industrial significance of sago as basis to evaluate the commodity economic advantages. Naturally and by researched, sago palm ideal density growing is almost similar to the oil palm ie 125-150 palms per hectares. Differing from oil palm, sago palm normally growing in cluster except for one species that is endemic for Bougainville Island of the PNG. Ideally, each cluster would be having 5-7 palms of different growing stages. In the "plantation" practices either in Sarawak and Pulau Besar, Rhiau, Indonesia, planting density of 125-150 palms per hectare with each cluster having 5-7 standing are maintained. Such practices is by reason to provide about 80-100 palms per hectare harvesting annually.

(4) With the harvesting rate of 80-100 palms/year, and for the Sarawak local species of 20-25 per cents flour extracting rate, from 10 years onward after first planting, a yield of 16-25 mt of flour is expected for a hectare of sago farm. Since sago need no replanting, therefore from year 10th onward, the graph of sago production is considered constant at 16-25 mt/yr/ha. In comparison to oil palm, in term of yield, the oil palm Fresh Fruit Bunch FFB is equal to the sago log. Thus the crude palm oil CPO is then equivalent to the sago flour. Based on such perspectives, sago productivity is much higher than the oil palm. On per hectare basis, oil palm would produces 20-25 mt FFB and conversion to CPO would be around 4-6.25 mt/ha. On the other hand, sago would produce 80-100 mt of sago logs on per hectare basis. These logs is about 10 meters in length with about 45-60 cm in diameter. The wet weight of these logs is estimated about 1 mt/log. Therefore, the wet weight of harvested sago logs per hectare is estimated to be around 80-100 mt/ha/yr. With the flour extraction rate of 20-25 per cents, sago would produce 16-25 mt/ha/yr flour. In these sense, sago is about 400 per cents much productive than oil palm. 

(5) The gestation period for oil palm is 30 months upon planting. By the fifth to seventh year, an oil palm is considered at full maturity, giving a yield of almost 17-25 mt/ha/yr FFB. By month thirty, the yield increases from 3-5 mt/ha/yr reaching to about 15-17 mt/ha/yr on the fifth year. The palm sustain its productivity of averaging 20-25 mt/ha/yr from year seventh to year 22nd. Thereon the yield began to  diminish and needing replanting by the year 25th. Graphically, the productivity of an oil palm is half parabolic in nature.  In fact, with out replanting after year 25th, the productivity graph would turned a complete concave as shown to the left.

.. to be continued In Shaa Allah

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