Positive growth in FFB production despite shortage of workers – Willie
Posted on : 13 Jul 2021  Source of News: The Borneo Post

KUCHING (July 13): Sarawak still managed to record a positive growth of 0.6 per cent in oil palm fresh fruit bunch (FFB) production this year despite recording the largest decline in the number of workers in the oil palm sector, said Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Willie Mongin.

He revealed that from Jan to May this year, the average number of workers in the plantation sector declined by 8.0 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year when the state recorded the largest decline by 11.5 per cent.

Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah also showed a drop by 9.3 per cent and 4.2 percent respectively, he added.

The impact on the FFB processed arising from the declining number of workers in plantation seems to vary across regions.

Despite recording the largest decline in the number of workers, Sarawak managed to record a positive growth of 0.6 per cent in FFB production during the corresponding period (from 7.44 million tonnes to 7.49 million tonnes).

“Peninsular Malaysia also seems able to manage the reduction in workers as the processed FFB of that region declined only by 3.0 per cent to 19.25 million tonnes from 19.85 million. However, Sabah is seen to be affected the most where the FFB processed suffers a decline of 12.1 per cent to 7.63 million tonnes from 8.69 million tonnes,” he said in a statement, in response to a front page report by theSundaypost headlined ‘Palm oil industry facing collapse’.

According to the report, Sarawak’s palm oil industry is teetering on the brink of collapse because of crippling labour shortage and restrictions of the standard operating procedure (SOP) imposed to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wille said the oil palm sector in Malaysia is known to be highly dependent on foreign labour but the national border closure resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic has interrupted the intake of new foreign workers, which worsened the labour shortage that has been a long-standing issue in the Malaysian oil palm sector.

“In coping with this situation, the plantation players opted to hire the locals so as to ensure that plantation operation continues. However, due to the nature of the work which requires high physical labour, the involvement of the locals is seen to be temporary and fluctuated from month-to-month.

“It is believed that the dependency on local workers is not able to support the vacuum left by the foreign workers in the longer term and this will affect the productivity of the industry,” he said.

TheSundaypost report quoting sources revealed that the Indonesian government has not reopened its borders yet, stopping their citizens from going overseas, including to Malaysia.

This despite the announcement by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas on December 23, 2020 that the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) had decided to allow the recruitment of foreign workers into Sarawak with effect from January 1, 2021.

“Indonesia’s borders are still closed, their (Indonesian) government does not encourage their citizens to work overseas,” the source told thesundaypost, requesting anonymity.

“We still cannot apply for visas at immigration as their systems are still locked by federal office. The Malaysian government has also yet to approve to allow foreign worker recruitment even though Sarawak government had announced to allow foreign worker recruitment,” the source added.

According to a pre-MCO survey by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, there was a shortage of 31,021 harvesters among its respondents, which represents 76 per cent of the industry players.

“The labour shortage issue remains unresolved and is getting worse, resulting in production losses,” commented analysts with CGS-CIMB Research in the report.

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