The State Government will continue to place emphasis. on developing the oil palm industry here, with some 1.8 million hectares identified as suitable for the crop, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman. He said that the projected area would be an increase from the current 1.24 million hectares already converted to oil palm plantations here, which have managed to provide good income of up to RM8,000 a month for smallholders. “The strong performance of the national oil palm industry, especially the hike in palm oil prices to its current high has increased the income and profit for plantation companies and smallholders,” he said in his speech at the dinner and official closing for the Sabah Oil Palm Expo at Le’ Meridien Hotel here last night. His speech was delivered by Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. Musa said the national oil palm industry earned some RM45.1 billion in exports for the country, a 41.8 percent increase from RM32. 2 billion earned in 2006, making the oil palm industry the biggest contributor to the national export income. He added that the positive developments in the industry had come about through the political stability and efforts towards developing agricultural land by the State Government and Federal and State Government agencies. “These encouraging achievements are the result of understanding and cooperation in the oil palm industry between the factory, plantation, business sectors and smallholders and should only be improved further. “I was also made to understand that the factories, oil palm traders and smallholders in the local market have worked together in providing fertiliser on credit to smallholders to improve their productivity and quality. “The result of this cooperation is an increase in income for smallholders and this cooperation can be improved through the provision of infrastructure by plantation companies as part of their corporate social responsibility.” During the event, Masidi, on behalf of Musa, presented a mock check of RM4 million to several State MPs, to be distributed to oil palm smallholders as part of the Quality Oil Palm Seedling Assistance Scheme.