KUCHING: The recent announcement of 32,000 foreign workers being approved for entry into Malaysia from mid-October 2021 by the Minister for Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin is most welcomed news for the palm oil industry in Malaysia and in particular for Sarawak.
“This is the most refreshing and welcomed news for the palm oil industry here as Sarawak has very acute shortage of foreign workers which had adversely affected the industry since the lockdown began in March 2020,” stated Felix Moh, Chief Executive Officer of Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA). “As informed by the MPIC minister, the workers will comprise Indonesian and Bangladeshi workers and we certainly hope that our applications for these foreign workers will also be in the approved list, though we can only get Indonesian workers as mandated by the Sarawak Government for plantation industry here. SOPPOA has also appealed to the Chief Minister of Sarawak to grant approval for Bangladeshi workers for the plantation industry here as they capable to work in oil palm plantation as proven in other parts of Malaysia. If approved for Sarawak, the Bangladeshi workers will certainly ease the acute shortage in our estates spread across the state. Currently, not only palm oil industry short of Indonesian workers, other sectors like construction industry, manufacturing industries, oil and gas industry, logistic and services industries also very much dependence on them,” he added.
“SOPPOA has held dialogues with the relevant ministries and authorities in Sarawak and the Indonesian Consulate here on the shortage of foreign workers for the palm oil industry here and as requested, we have also set up the necessary quarantine centres in our estates to prepare for entry of new foreign workers when they arrive. We are very hopeful that the Sarawak Government will also grant approval for entry of foreign workers for the palm oil industry here following the announcement by the MPIC minister,” he added. It was also noted by various industry analysts during the recent launching of the East Malaysia Crude Palm Oil Futures (FEPO) that the palm oil industry in Sarawak faced acute shortage of workers which accounted for the lower industry output the previous quarters.
“As noted by the MPIC Minister, Malaysians are not interested to work in the palm oil industry as harvesters which in turn meant that foreign workers are needed for the jobs as currently there are no suitable machineries capable of doing harvesting effectively. It should also be noted that Sarawak has the largest planted area for oil palm which in turn meant that even more harvesters are required as these estates are spread all over the state,” Felix pointed out. During this economic downturn brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, the palm oil industry continues to be a strong revenue earner for the state and country through export and could be even more productive if the workers shortage could be addressed quickly. SOPPOA fully understands the constraints of the state in allowing for foreign workers entry into Sarawak during the pandemic but with the various SOPs now being introduced for foreign workers entry, it is timely for considering allowing new workers into Sarawak to enable the palm oil industry here to improve productivity for the benefit of the state and nation.