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SOPPOA appeals for urgent solution to workers shortage

Friday, 4 November 2016

KUCHING: The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (SOPPOA) is urging the state government to address the issue on shortage of workers in the state’s plantation industry.

In a statement released yesterday, the association referred to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement that the freeze on foreign workers in the plantation industry resulted in losses of more than RM1 billion in his Budget 2017 winding up speech.

Zahid pointed out the problem was especially acute in Sarawak and Sabah.

“Based on current statistics of 1.4 million hectares planted in the state for oil palm, the state needs 175,000 workers based on Labour-Land Ratio of 1:8. But data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and the State Labour Department showed that only about 108,000 workers, comprising approximately 86,000 foreign workers and 22,000 locals, are employed in the state’s plantation industry.

“The shortfall of over 67,000 workers is acute as the ramifications are huge; lack of workers resulted in loss of fruits being harvested which directly leads to loss of revenue to estates and loss of revenue to the federal and state governments in terms of taxes collected,” said the SOPPOA spokesperson.

He added that between 2010 and 2015, the palm oil industry contributed RM2.159 billion in sales taxes to Sarawak and the industry would continue to expand.

To expedite the hiring of workers, the association requested that the process should be more streamlined among the relevant government agencies.

“Such a move will enable companies to get their workers quickly to prevent any backlog in fieldwork such as costly delay in harvesting rounds.”

In view of the current critical shortage, it also requested for the state government to consider hiring workers from other nations besides Indonesia as a measure to meet the current shortage.

“On the matter of illegal foreign workers, the government could also consider providing an amnesty period for companies to register these workers and provide them the necessary documents to work here legally. Such a move would help to overcome the lack of workers and reduce the number of illegal workers here.”

The palm oil industry in Sarawak is expanding in line with the government’s target growth of 8 per cent per annum to achieve 2 million hectares planted by 2020.

Presently the palm oil industry here contributes an estimated RM3.9 billion to the state GDP (2014) and makes up 10.95 per cent or RM9 billion of the state total export, valued at RM82.2 billion in 2014.

“It is an engine of growth for the state and will continue to generate revenue, jobs and opportunities for people here,” said the spokesperson.

Taken from The Borneo Post