KUALA LUMPUR: Plantation and commodities minister Johari Ghani says manual labour is still required to harvest oil palm fruits, as machine-based technology for such purposes has yet to be developed.

Johari said this was why the palm oil industry is heavily dependent on foreign workers for harvesting and collection, with nearly half of the workforce dedicated to this process.

“It (harvesting) still requires manual labour. We have many (manual) tools for harvesting the fruit but this requires the expertise of skilled workers,” he told the Dewan Rakyat today.

However, he said mechanisation was feasible for other tasks in the industry, such as the application of fertiliser and pesticides.

Johari was responding to a supplementary question from Idris Ahmad (PN-Bagan Serai) on whether the ministry plans to mitigate the shortage of workers in the palm oil industry through technological advancements.

Last month, he announced that only the plantation sector would be permitted to hire foreign workers, a decision conveyed to him by home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail after Saifuddin’s meeting with human resources minister Steven Sim on Jan 16.

Johari had said that the industry was facing a shortage of 40,000 workers.

To address the industry’s need for foreign workers, Johari said the ministry had introduced technical and vocational education and training aimed at training locals to become harvesters.

“We have identified 60 people to enrol in this course, scheduled to commence in April and conclude in September. Hopefully, they can focus on the intricacies of harvesting these fruits,” he said in the Dewan Rakyat.

“And when this expertise is acquired, we can encourage more people to engage in harvesting oil palm fruits.”




Sumber : Free Malaysia Today