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Without Subsidized Fertilizer, Independent Palm Oil Farmers in Lampung Still Working on the Land

The rain has just stopped in Batanghari Village, Rawa Pitu District, Tulang Bawang Regency, Lampung, Monday (24/10/2022) morning.

Rokani prepares to harvest the palms. Using a motorbike, he carried a scythe which was later connected to iron up to 11 meters long.

This 58-year-old man works as a wage laborer for oil palm harvesters owned by independent smallholders. He was paid IDR 250 thousand for one tonne.

“If the fruit is bad, one hectare does not reach one ton,” he explained.

The father of six children is worried that even though he does not have an oil palm plantation, the policy of not having subsidized fertilizers will have an impact on him.

“Treatment that is not optimal makes fruit yields decrease. It could be that independent smallholders switch to the plasma system. I could lose my job considering my age,” he said.

Fertilizer problem 

The Ministry of Agriculture (Kementan) does not include oil palm in the nine commodities that receive subsidized fertilizers. The focus is on plantation commodities whose productivity needs to be increased, so that they can boost exports or reduce imports from other countries.

Quoting Kata Data , the Director General of Agricultural Infrastructure and Facilities of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ali Jamil, in the Socialization of Policies on Subsidized Fertilizers in the Agricultural Sector, Friday (15/7/2022),
said that there were nine commodities that received subsidized fertilizers. The commodities are rice, corn, soybeans, chilies, shallots, garlic, sugar cane, coffee and cocoa.

Regarding the absence of subsidized fertilizer for palm oil, Ikhwan Mulyanto, a resident of Karyamakmur Village, Penawar Aji District, Tulang Bawang Regency, Lampung, is looking for a solution by using organic fertilizer.

He uses fermented cow dung with husk ash and EM4 . After one to two weeks, the fertilizer is sprinkled on two hectares of palms.

“I measure 10 kilograms of fertilizer and then put it in a sack and I place it near the palm trunk with a distance of 80 centimeters. The goal is not to be carried away by rainwater,” he explained, Monday (24/10/2022).

Using organic fertilizers results are not instant like chemical fertilizers, it can take up to a year to see results. He has been applying organic fertilization since the end of 2021, because if palm oil is not fertilized, production will decrease by around 30 percent.

“The yield can still be one ton in one hectare,” he said.

In contrast to Cipuk, a resident of Batanghari Village, who is also an independent oil palm smallholder. He persisted in using chemical fertilizers, even though subsidized fertilizers were removed.

“As long as the price of palm oil is not less than IDR 1,500 thousand per kilogram,” said the 73-year-old man.

Since the end of 2021, he will no longer receive subsidized fertilizer. Comparison of the cost of fertilization can reach Rp. 1.5 million, for a garden area of ​​3 hectares.

“When it was still subsidized, the cost of fertilizing every 4 months was IDR 3.5 million,” he said.

When asked why he didn’t use organic fertilizers, Cipuk said, since the beginning of planting oil palms until they were 17 years old, they always used chemical fertilizers.

“I hope that the price of Rp. 1,500 per kilogram of palm oil is maintained, so that we can manage our plantations using fertilizers purchased on the market,” he explained.

Need assistance 

The chairman of the Association of Farmers Groups (Gapoktan) in Wonorejo Village, Penawar Aji District, Tulang Bawang, Lampung, Widodo, said that since the beginning of 2022, independent oil palm farmers have not received subsidized fertilizers.

Widodo, who oversees 9 farmer groups with 30 members in each group, explained that some farmers want to join the company to become plasma farmers. However, it is constrained by replanting costs . Supposedly, there is assistance from the palm oil fund management agency, such as one hectare of land gets IDR 30 million.

“We want to discuss this with the Tulang Bawang Regency Government or directly with provincial plantation officials,” he said.

So far, said Widodo, independent farmers in the Tulang Bawang district have been determined to use non-subsidized fertilizers interspersed with organic fertilizers. That is, if they have money they buy chemical fertilizers.

So far, to make organic fertilizer, farmers have only used instinct, namely by sprinkling cow dung. “Assistance is needed so that farmers can make quality organic fertilizer,” he explained.

Regarding the sale of palm fruit, Widodo explained, so far farmers have sold it to the nearest container and this container has sold it to the factory.

“All the smallholders in our group have customers. The group management does not decide who to sell it to, because we don’t have a cooperative yet,” he explained.

Acting Head of the Lampung Plantation Service, Yuli Astuti, confirmed that only three types of plantation crops received subsidized fertilizers: coffee, cocoa and sugarcane.

Yuli admits that she is working on a program to assist independent farmers so they can get maximum yields.

“But it’s still in the data collection stage, the program hasn’t started yet,” he explained.

Not just cow dung

Practitioner of compost fertilizer Suprayitno, a resident of East Lampung Regency, said that independent oil palm farmers don’t have to worry about using compost. According to him, any plant can use compost offset by inorganic fertilizers. However, recently farmers depend on chemical fertilizers.

In fact, chemical fertilizers have an unfavorable impact on soil elements, namely they can compact the soil and kill microbes.

“If the soil is damaged, it will be difficult for plant roots to develop,” he explained.

According to Suprayitno, organic fertilizer is good enough for fruit production. However, because the application is wrong as if organic fertilizers damage plants.

If using manure, before sowing on the plants must be processed first. This is because manure from any manure, such as cow manure, contains grass-borne weed seeds. Also, it contains germs in the form of bacteria and fungi.

“If manure is applied directly to the palm trees, urethral disease will appear, a kind of weevil egg. As a result, the young fronds will be damaged because they are eaten by caterpillars.”

Using the right organic fertilizer makes the palm fruits denser and the soil elements are maintained.

“Admittedly, it takes extra energy to do it,” he said.

Lecturer in the Department of Soil Science who is a Professor at the Faculty of Agriculture, Unila, Dermiyati explained, basically all organic materials can be used as raw materials for organic fertilizers. In oil palm, stems, shells and empty fruit bunches can also be used as material.

“Likewise, liquid waste or solid waste from the cooking oil industry,” he said.

The existence of cover crops ( cover crops ), namely legumes or legume cover crops (LCC), apart from being a mulch, also plays a role in soil and water conservation.

LCC can also be used as an organic fertilizer for oil palm plants. Legumes can fix nitrogen (N) from the air due to the presence of rhizobium bacteria that live in root nodules.

“So that LCC can contribute N to palm oil,” he explained.

Dermiyati continued, all sources of organic matter can be used as solid, liquid and biological organic fertilizers ( biofertilizer ). Biofertilizer is an organic fertilizer containing microbes, which helps the availability of plant nutrients, especially N and P.

Fertilization is also distinguished between immature plants (TBM) and mature plants (TM). This is due to different nutritional needs. In TBM for growth (vegetative) and TM in fertilization (generative).

TBM is given N for growth, while fertilization has more P and K.

“Although all N, P, and K are needed during growth, the timing of fertilization is adjusted to the nutrient needs of plants. It is better to have a balance between organic and inorganic fertilizers,” he explained.

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