KUALA LUMPUR: The oil palm industry is facing problems or being affected after the government froze the hiring quota of foreign workers due to the surplus of foreign workers which actually applies for the manufacturing and service sectors.

Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said the oil palm industry still depends about 75 per cent on foreign workers.

"For example, every eight hectares of oil palm is managed by one worker. So if there are 1,000 hectares, about 125 workers are required and of that number, 75 per cent are foreign workers.

"He said the oil palm industry lacks almost 40,000 workers, mostly focused on the harvesting segment.

"Recently the government has frozen the quota of foreign workers because there is a surplus of foreign workers in the country. But the surplus is in fields other than plantations.

"For example, currently in the manufacturing sector we have an excess of 165,497 foreign workers, while in the service sector, we have an excess of 27,158 foreign workers. This excess of foreign workers occurred after we reopened businesses and the economy post Covid-19 whereby any company that applied for foreign workers would get approval from the ministry.

"There was a lack of coordination. Businesses take time to grow after we closed for two years, and that's what causing the excess foreign workers," he said during the question and answer session at Dewan Negara today in reply to a question from Senator Datuk Seri Zurainah Musa who asked about the efforts made to resolve the needs of about 40,000 foreign workers in the oil palm plantation sector.

Johari said  since the companies involved in the plantation sector were facing a shortage of foreign workers, a 'recalibration' was made with the excess of unemployed foreign workers offered work in the plantation sector.

"However, the plantation industry is afraid to hire (excess foreign workers) because if some of them were hired against their will, it will cause them to be deemed as forced labour," he said.

He said the ministry is currently implementing a 'pilot test' by hiring 60 young local workers to change the perception of working in the plantation.

"Mainly, we want them (local young workers) to specialise in harvesting. Harvesters are very important because if we have 100 workers in the plantation, 50 per cent are harvesters.

"So we want to train our youths via the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme. We will train them to harvest oil palm trees and call them specialist harvesters and hopefully they can earn a salary of up to RM3,000.

"I mention this because only Malaysia has such a labour problem. In Indonesia, 100 per cent of its production is local. They have harvesters who have specialised skills and some of them came here and they are the ones who harvest," he said.

Johari said the country's oil palm industry suffered losses of RM20 billion to RM30 billion following the labour shortage issue.— BERNAMA




Sumber : New Straits Times