A total of 1,500 native customary rights land-owners in Simunjan, in the Samarahan division, yesterday committed their land, totalling more than 9,600ha, to be developed into an oil palm plantation.

This will be done in a joint venture with the state land development agency, Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd, and plantation company, DD Plantations Sdn Bhd.

The state government is throwing in 5,000ha of state land to give the plantation at Kepayang-Semalatong area in Simunjan a total of 14,000ha.

Debunking the widespread claim that such a deal is a precursor to a land grab by the government, these NCR landowners put pen to paper to seal the joint venture at a brief ceremony here.

Pelita chief executive officer Abdullah Chek Sahamat signed on behalf of Pelita and the owners, while DD Plantation’s managing director Yee Ming Seng signed for the plantation firm. Pelita has been designated as the NCR landowners’ managing agent.

In the agreement, a joint venture company would be formed where the landowners would hold a 30 per cent stake, DD Plantations the majority 60 per cent and Pelita the remaining 10 per cent.

The joint venture yesterday was the 26th such deal the government had worked out between NCR landowners and private sector firms to develop idle native land in the state.

More joint ventures in future

Abdullah said when 23 similar joint ventures, currently being worked out, are all sealed, 250,000ha of NCR land would have been committed to the planting of oil palm.

He said to date, 46,000ha of NCR land had already been developed in 25 joint ventures. DD Plantations, formerly known as Good Solid Corporation Sdn Bhd, was picked for this venture due to its experience in similar venture worked out by Pelita.

The joint ventures are in Sebungan and Sebauh Genaan in Bintulu totalling 23,000ha. So far, 7,500ha in Sebauh Genaan had already been planted. DD Plantations have also been given permits to open up state land for oil palm plantation in nearby Gedong and Sadong.

The Gedong and Sadong estates have both been pioneer state land project joint ventures with Pelita. The mill it operated there has a capacity of processing 60 tonnes of crude palm oil per hour.

Yee said the company would invest RM140 million to develop the Kepayang-Semalatong plantation. He said land clearing would start in July and planting at the same time next year.

The 1,500 landowners are from 46 longhouses. –NST