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See oil palm as a nation builder, says association

Thursday, 14 March 2013

KUCHING: The perception of the oil palm industry is often swayed by ‘reality distortions’ views by NGOs and others that the industry is both destructive and environmentally unfriendly.

“Instead of looking at the industry negatively, we should see oil palm as a nation builder for the state as it contributes to very affordable food resources like cooking oil, numerous commodities made from combination of palm oil and making resourceful use of arable land in the state,” said Paul Wong, vice chairman of Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA).

He said it was also the most governed industry in Malaysia as currently there are 25 laws/regulations for companies to adhere to when planting oil palms in Sarawak.

As such, he said, any discrepancy would result in fines and even jail term for directors who flout the strict guidelines stipulated by the government.

He reiterated that it was also government policy that oil palms could only be planted in designated areas approved by state authorities and MPOB (Malaysian Palm Oil Board), the main authority for the industry in Malaysia.

So, the bottom line is that there is no discriminate planting of oil palms in the state and activities are being monitored regularly by the authorities concerned which include Labour Department, Department of Environment, Department of Occupational Safety and Health, Health Ministry, Ministry of Plantation and Commodities, Ministry of Land Development, Fire and Rescue Department, Municipal Authorities and Customs and Excise.

“On the taxes, the oil palm industry is the only agricultural crop which is ‘taxed before profit’ as millers. Exporters of palm oil are taxed whenever the commodity is sold under Windfall tax, Stabilisation Fund tax and Export Duty tax while a further 25 per cent corporate profit tax is levied on companies involved in the industry.

“We are grateful though that the government has now made the Foreign Workers levy to be paid by the workers and also exempted the estates from SPIKPA (health insurance scheme),” said Wong.

Presently, the estates have also eased the burden on the workers by giving them incentives to offset these extra burdens of levy charges while providing medical and other health care benefits.

Currently, the industry is handicapped by a shortage of workers and, hence, the need for foreign workers, which is a major concern for companies as many producers are now emerging from countries such as India, South Africa, South America and other Pacific Asian nations. This will make sourcing for labour even harder.

The oil palm industry here is a major contributor to the state revenue earned annually and also for gainful employment of thousands of people.

In 2012, oil palms account for 57.3 per cent of commodity and commodity products export of RM 73.3 billion as stated by Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok recently.

In addition to the transfer of technology gained for locals, people here also benefited from the complementary supporting industries like food suppliers, real estate agents, drivers, insurance providers and entertainment establishments.

“The current cooperative mode between the private and public sector should be further enhanced to ensure that the industry continues to be progressive and sustainable and bringing progress to the state’s development,” said Wong.

Taken from The Borneo Post