Harvesting the fruits is an experience in itself. The harvester uses a long rod fitted with a sharp sickle. He looks up at the tree and identifies the ripe fruit. Then he accurately places the sickle on the frond that holds the fruit. He pulls it first, then sharply hacks the fruit. It falls down with a thud. Ripe fruits should be plucked. Unripe fruits yield less oil and affect the quality so would be rejected by the oil mills.
The fruit weighs between 20 and 25 kilograms. The harvester moves to the next tree. Some may hold two or three, some only one. The plucking needs great experience and greater skill. Less skilled workers collect the fruits and dump them in mounds near the paths so lorries can motor in and load the fruits. Each lorry accommodates 7 to 7.5 tonnes. About 350 fruits go to make up 7.5 tonnes. The harvesting is carried out once in 15 days.
Oil palm is affably referred to as "black gold." It's true that this fruit is a money spinner. It requires timely application of fertilizer and periodic application of pesticide. It is a high consumer of nitrogen. It needs no irrigation as it is in rain-fed areas. Trenches are dug between the rows of oil palm trees to contain the moisture.
Malaysians have become affluent. Their standard of living has gone up. We find small plantations by the roads, near the houses, next to the kiosks. Every fortnight the small grower earns a handsome amount of money. The country has a robust economy. The people have become self-sufficient. There is a remarkable difference in the approach to life. Some three decades back the scenario was pathetic, but at the moment there is good cheer and happiness all around.