The Group purchases germinated palm seeds from reputable seed gardens. These seeds are cultivated in nurseries on our estates, close to where they will be planted. They are carefully fertilised and watered, and regular culling takes place to remove seedlings showing any sign of abnormality. We buy about 200 seeds for every hectare we plan to plant.
After about one year the seedling is planted out in the field. The Group plants at the optimum density so that we get the maximum number of palms without the fully-grown palms shading each other out and so reducing each palm’s capacity to produce fresh fruit bunches. This means we generally plant 140-150 palms per hectare.
The immature palms grow in the field for another 30 months. During this time, we fertilise the young palms, keep back the weeds and make harvesters’ paths. We minimise the amount of weeding that is needed by planting a cover crop around the seedlings as they are planted out into the field. The cover crop suppresses weeds, fixes beneficial nutrients in the soil and provides a helpful mulch.
Once the palms are mature, harvesting begins. The bunches are small at first, but grow bigger and heavier as the palm ages. The yield of fresh fruit bunches rises sharply over the early years of maturity, reaching a peak when the palm is about ten years old. This peak level is then maintained for about eight years, before a gradual erosion of yield sets in. Eventually, a decision is taken to replant the field, starting the cycle off again from the beginning.