The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) welcome move by MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board) to recruit more locals to work in plantations especially youths. MPOB Chairman, Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, recently stated that hopefully youths with the incentivized package from the government can take up this challenge to fill these 3 Ds (dirty, dangerous and difficult) plantation job vacancies which are desperately needed now. The acute shortage situation in plantations is getting worse and unbearable with substantial amount of crop unharvested, subsequently rotted and wasted. Field conditions are getting bad and replanting of older palms are delayed due to not enough hands.
Even before the COVID 19 pandemic, plantations in Sarawak were already suffering from workers shortage, this has become a major crisis since the commencement of Movement Control Order where no new Indonesian workers are allowed into the country while those whose employment contracts expired had left the country. The plantations in Sarawak have consistently employ many locals especially youths already working as mill technicians, operators, field supervisors, mechanics, office clericals, R & D, laboratories, drivers and security personnel among others but so far rarely any youths would venture into the 3 D nature of harvesting and upkeep jobs which is the bulk of the labour requirement in the plantation upstream operation. For succession planning, the plantation industry has provided training academies for school leavers and on-the-job training for others with perks which the job uptake trend is still relatively slow.
It is a fact that Sarawak has a smaller scattered local population and larger land area than the Peninsula counterpart. The local workforce although relatively small is also shared and compete with the more lucrative jobs in the various construction, manufacturing, oil and gas sectors. Other available youths numbered in tens of thousands have ventured to more developed countries to seek better prospects and livelihood in the bright city lights. Without the intake of foreign workers at this critical stage will eventually cause the downfall of the 2nd most important economy for Malaysia in term of revenue and job opportunities to tens of thousands of farmers and value chain users who depended on this industry as their livelihood.
The authorities must immediately find ways to get these Indonesian workers in as the Recovery MCO had been extended to 31st December 2020. The survival of the plantation industries is at stake and authorities must provide immediate assistance to relieve the sufferings of the planters SOPPOA is ready to take up a supporting role with the state government in getting these workers in safely amidst the COVID 19 pandemic through properly planned movement of foreign workers legally, safely and in full compliance of COVID 19 prevention Standard Operating Procedures as required by SDMC.