Pemerkasa incentive good move to attract local workers, MPOB says

KUALA LUMPUR: The RM50 million allocation for the palm oil industry in the Strategic Programme to Empower the People and Economy (PEMERKASA) assistance package can further boost the sector’s effort to woo more local workers, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) said.

Director-general Dr Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir said the RM30 million to encourage investments in mechanisation and automation and RM20 million for purchase of machinery can help move the industry into mechanisation in its way forward.

"Hopefully when we go into mechanisation it is less dirty and less dangerous and so maybe by then we can attract more locals especially the youth.

"The grant can be used to buy more tractors to collect fruit bunches and therefore minimising the nature of harvesting by humans. I hope it will become something that is more tolerable for the locals, ” he told Bernama.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said when unveiling PEMERKASA on Wednesday, that the government had approved a matching grant of RM30 million to encourage investments in mechanisation and automation of the palm oil industry.

The Prime Minister said another matching grant of RM20 million would also be allocated for the purchase of machinery for Sustainable Oil Palm Growers Cooperatives to benefit 65 cooperatives with a membership of 6,000 smallholders.

Especially for the cooperatives, Ahmad Parveez said they can also use the grant to buy MPOB’s motorised palm oil cutter or ‘cantas’ that was introduced by the board in 2007.

"We have 65 cooperatives involved in the planting of sustainable palm oil for the whole country so we hope with this matching grant, it can improve their facility and give some mechanisation to load and unload the fruit bunches. Roughly, whole bunches of ripe fruit can weigh about 30 kg.

"Indirectly, you are supporting these cooperatives and they can make more money and in return they can support the smallholders who are their members, ” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Singapore-based Palm Oil Analytics' owner and co-founder Dr Sathia Varqa said amid the current higher price of crude palm oil (CPO) which is trading above RM4,000 per tonne, the incentives are an additional benefit for the plantation industry.

"Plantations are expected to use more fertiliser this year and it is good news especially for the 6,000 smallholders, ” he said.

Having said that, Sathia opined, the RM30 million may not be sufficient to resolve the labour shortage problem as such initiative will take time.

"To be honest RM30 million is small for a RM75 billion industry, ” he said.

PEMERKASA worth RM20 billion is the sixth assistance package introduced by the Malaysian government to continuously support the country’s economic recovery process, along with a new fiscal injection amounting to RM11 billion.

The package focuses on 20 strategic initiatives to boost economic growth, support businesses, and continue targeted assistance to the people and sectors that are still affected.

Other packages introduced earlier on were the PRIHATIN Rakyat Economic Stimulus package worth RM250 billion, PRIHATIN package for small and medium enterprises (RM10 billion), National Economic Recovery Plan under PENJANA (RM35 billion), Prihatin Supplementary Initiative Package (RM10 billion) and Malaysian Economic and Rakyat’s Protection Assistance Package (RM15 billion).

With the inclusion of PEMERKASA (RM20 billion), the total value of the aid packages is RM340 billion. - Bernama

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