Sarawak adds three source countries for palm workers

KUCHING: Oil palm plantation companies in Sarawak are now allowed to recruit foreign workers from several other countries other than Indonesia.

The Sarawak cabinet has given the green light for these companies to recruit migrant workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Philippines besides Indonesia, according to Sarawak Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Department (Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring) Datuk Gerawat Gala.

The state government’s relaxation in the recruitment of foreign workers has been lauded by the Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners’ Association, which has for years been vocal in requesting the authorities to help address the critical shortage of workers in the plantation industry.

Association chairman Eric Kiu said it was delighted that the Sarawak government had approved the hiring of foreign workers from more source countries.

“With these additional source countries, employers will now have the option to recruit foreign workers from these countries to meet their labour requirements,” he added.

Based on Malaysian Palm Oil Board figures, among producing states in Malaysia, Sarawak has the biggest oil palm planted area of about 1.62 million ha, accounting for 28.6% of the country’s total planted area of 5.67 million ha at end-2022.

There was an increase of 16,113 ha as compared to nearly 1.61 million ha Sarawak had in 2021.

Neighbouring Sabah’s total planted area was about 1.51 million ha (26.6%) while the combined planted areas of producing states in Peninsular Malaysia was 2.54 million ha (44.8%).

Last year, Sarawak produced slightly more than four million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) as compared to top producer Sabah (4.29 million tonnes) and Malaysia’s total output of 18.5 million tonnes.

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