The Indonesian government is planning to expand an oil palm replanting programme it launched last year to cover 185,000ha of plantations in 2018.

The scheme, which had a goal to replant 20,000ha in 2017, was part of the government’s attempts to increase palm oil output in the world’s largest producer of the commodity, wrote Reuters on 9 May.

“We must work hard to be at the forefront of management including for this rejuvenation programme,” said Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The government’s ultimate goal was to replace palm trees older than 25 years on a total of 5.61M ha of plantations over the entire country.

The rejuvenation programme was especially intended to help smallholders, whose plantations had yields of only 2-3 tonnes/ha of palm oil, as opposed to large corporation-owned plantations that could reach yields of up to 20 tonnes/ha.

According to the Indonesian government, smallholder yields could be boosted to 8 tonnes/ha annually if old palm trees were replaced with new and better seedlings that could start production within two years of planting.

But the replanting programme – funded through the Indonesian Oil Palm Plantation Fund (BPDP-KS) – had recently come under fire from smallholders who sued the government in April, claiming that replanting funds were unconstitutionally used to subsidise the country’s biodiesel industry, according to Mongabay.

The BPDP-KS was set up in 2015 to manage the money collected through Indonesia’s palm oil export duties for “human resource development, research and development, and rejuvenation of plantations”, but of the 14.2 trillion rupiahs (US$1.03bn) collected in 2017, only 1% went to smallholders, while 89% of the money was given to 19 large biodiesel companies as biodiesel subsidies, Mongabay reported.