Forbidden fruit: Indonesia
palm oil plantations boost security to stop thieves
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[August 09, 2017]
By Eveline Danubrata and Stefanno Reinard
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian security
companies have seen a surge in demand for guards to protect palm oil
plantations from fruit thieves and land grabbers, amid a rebound in
prices of the commodity used to churn out everything from cooking oil to
Palm prices have jumped over 15 percent in the last few months, boosting
the temptation for individuals or small-scale criminal gangs to steal
fruit to sell to middlemen in the world's biggest producer of the
Security companies said this was driving more business their way, with
palm growers looking to step up the number of guards patrolling
plantations that can sometimes cover up to 30,000 hectares, equivalent
to nearly half the entire land area of nearby Singapore.
Some of those vast plantations are now being guarded by up to 200
people, Agoes Dermawan, secretary-general of the Indonesian Security
Industry Association, told Reuters.
"Palm is one of the sectors that require a lot of security forces
because the level of theft of fresh fruit bunches is quite high, and
other crimes related to plantations have also been rising, Dermawan
Unclear regulations on land ownership in palm-growing regions such as
Sumatra and Kalimantan have also led to overlapping claims for land,
with indigenous people occasionally occupying the concession areas of
palm oil companies.
Around 15 percent of the 650 members of the Indonesian Palm Oil
Association are expected to use private security services this year, up
from 10 percent in 2016, said Eddy Martono, head of the body's agrarian
and spatial planning unit.
Thieves of fresh fruit bunches tend to use motorbikes or pickup trucks
to speed loot to middlemen, Martono said.
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Dino Hindarto, chief executive of PT Nawakara Perkasa Nusantara,
gestures during an interview in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 8, 2017.
PT Nawakara Perkasa Nusantara, founded over 20 years ago by former police
officers, started venturing into security for palm producers after a slowdown in
demand for its services from oil and gas companies, said Chief Executive Dino
"Crude oil prices fell, so some of our clients in oil and gas also started
slowing down their exploration, and that affected us," Hindarto said, adding
that the firm plans to open two offices in palm-growing regions next year.
Security guards trained by Nawakara, which has around 10,000 employees in total,
are tasked with preventing "unauthorized people" from accessing palm
plantations, especially during the harvest season, Hindarto said.
Most plantation companies declined to comment on their security arrangements,
but PT Perusahaan Perkebunan London Sumatra Indonesia Tbk President Director
Benny Tjoeng said the firm had hired security personnel relative to the size of
Tjoeng added that cases of attempted crime at those sites were "under control",
without giving more detail.
Palm prices have been pushed up as key buyer China replenished some of its
stocks and as dry weather in the United States prompted buyers to switch to the
tropical oil from soybeans.
(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata and Stefanno Reinard; Additional reporting by
Cindy Silviana; Editing by Joseph Radford)
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