At Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), all fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) harvested in the plantations are delivered to the mills within 24 hours. Doing so results in a higher yield and quality of crude palm oil (CPO) at the mills. What exactly goes into this process? We break it down for you.
FFB is at its optimum ripeness once fruits start detaching from the fully formed bunch on the oil palm tree. At this point, free fatty acids (FFA) also start setting in when bruising of bunches occurs during the process of harvesting and transporting. FFA is detrimental to the yield and final quality of the CPO created at the mill. This is the main reason why the harvested FFBs have to be delivered to the mill for processing within 24 hours. The faster the fruit is crushed, the less FFA is formed, the better the yield and quality of CPO.
Harvesters in a plantation typically start work at 6:30am and end their day at about 1:30pm. Each harvester has to harvest at least four hectares per working day. To put that into perspective, they work an area consisting of about 16 rows of 33 oil palm trees per row. For every two rows, there is an assigned fruit collection platform. The harvester will use a wheelbarrow to deliver their harvested FFBs to the platform.
At the platforms, FFBs and loose fruits are loaded either directly onto trucks or stationary bins which are than hauled by a prime mover. Once the vehicles reach an optimal weight of six to seven tonnes of FFBs they are ready to start making their way to the mill. The first vehicle is usually ready to leave at about 9:00am.
While there are paved roads along the journey, truck drivers sometimes have to navigate rocky terrain and undeveloped roads to reach their destinations. While time is of the essence, safety is paramount. If there is bad weather, the load is lowered to increase stability of the vehicle as the roads can become slippery. Transportation of FFBs continues until all harvested bunches for the day are emptied from the platforms, which is normally around 7:00pm.
Depending on the distance of that particular plantation from the mill and weather conditions, transporting the FFBs can take anything from 30 minutes to more than three hours.
Trucks arrive at the mills and unload the FFBs ready for processing into CPO. Mills process FFBs as they come from the plantations with the last deliveries usually around 8:00pm. They set aside the last batches of FFB for processing the next morning.
Delivering quality palm oil products to the market starts at the tree and continues throughout the production process. The shorter the lag time between harvesting and milling, the less free fatty acids formed in the FFBs, which then creates better yield and quality CPO at the mills.
Now that you know what happens to the FFBs from harvest to mill, find out how oil palm is grown.
Click here to discover stories behind the extraordinary, everyday lives of the people transforming palm oil.