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Palm oil industry in Sarawak face acute shortage of harvesters and loaders – SOPPOA

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The palm oil industry in Sarawak is in dire need of workers to survive, especially harvesters and loaders and to continue harvesting operations, stated the Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) in an urgent plea to the federal and state governments to look into the issue.

“Sarawak is the most hard hit in terms of shortage of workers in the industry, the issue is further compounded by the current Covid pandemic situation of no entry for new foreign workers. Before the MCO, Sarawak authorities only allow hiring of Indonesian workers for the industry. In peninsular and Sabah, other nationalities are allowed to be employed in the plantation sector,” said a spokesperson from SOPPOA. According to him, the shortage situation here is really critical, especially for harvesters and loaders requirement and only the government can assist the industry in this time of need.

“The industry has promoted through the media/posters to attract locals to join in the plantation workforce and they are only keen in services related aspects like drivers, junior managers, staff and technicians in our estates but not in the harvesters and loaders categories. It will be very difficult for the industry to progress with the shortage persisting in the long term especially when the industry here is expanding with more areas in maturing phase and additional areas continue to be developed by smallholders,” he added.

In view of the Covid-19 situation, the industry is willing to work with the government to ensure that new recruits coming will be first tested for Covid-19 before being allowed into the state and employers to pay for quarantine stay and Covid-19 tests while being in Sarawak upon entry, including strictly following the SDMC Standard Operating Procedures. The palm oil industry has continued to operate as efficiently as possible during the pandemic and has adhered to the strict guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures imposed for workers in estates and mills to ensure that the workers are safe, including self-lockdown in tehri respective workplaces. With the situation now getting so critical and near “breaking point”, the palm oil industry is pleading for the government to quickly provide the necessary assistance to overcome the workers shortage in Sarawak as the peak crop season has arrived to prevent further crop losses. Any delay in decision will only further jeopardize the survival of this industry and the livelihood of thousands of farmers and families who depend on this industry for their daily living.