AUTOMATION IN THE PLANTATION SECTOR AS A LONG -TERM
SOLUTION TO REDUCE DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN WORKERS
1. The Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) will continue seeking solutions to overcome the manpower shortage in the plantation sector, especially oil palm. MPIC is aware of the woes faced by the Malaysian Estate Owners ’Association (MEOA) where a severe labour crunch of about 120,000 workers is said to be capable of causing losses in earnings by up to 5%-10%.
2. All parties should be aware that among the main reasons for the shortage of manpower in the plantation sector was due to the closure of international borders, to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country and protect the people from the infectious disease.
3. The ministry is currently working closely with the Human Resources Ministry, Wisma Putra, the Immigration Department and the Co-operative Commission Malaysia, among others, to look into ways to expeditiously resolve this issue.
4. The Government had in September 2021 approved plans to bring in 32,000 migrant workers for palm oil estates nationwide, and MPIC remains cautiously optimistic of achieving this target, if not more, although the issue of permits had been brought to our attention.
5. Plantation owners must also in the future, be open to workers from countries like India and Pakistan, and not be too dependent on workers from Indonesia and Bangladesh. Moving forward, MPIC hopes that plantation owners will look into long-term solutions to cut down their dependency on foreign workers.
6. Through technological studies and research conducted by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), plantation owners are advised to increase the use of automation such as drones for the purpose of surveillance and pest control. MPIC is confident that the use of automation at plantations will attract local workers to this sector.
7. The use of greater automation will help reduce our dependency on foreign workers and make the industry more resilient in the long-run.
8. In this respect, MPIC feels that the current labour crunch in the palm oil sector will spur planters to start investing in technological tools and boost their own bottom lines in the long-run. MPIC believes that a greater uptake in automation can help position palm oil as the preferred edibl oil globally, in line with the ongoing "Malaysian Palm Oil Full of Goodness" Campaign.
YB DATUK HAJAH ZURAIDA KAMARUDDIN
MINISTER OF PLANTATION INDUSTRIES AND COMMODITIES
18 JUN 2022