PETALING JAYA: The actual worker shortage in the palm oil industry can be between 70,000 and 100,000 workers, according to an industry source.
The source also claimed that the government has yet to bring in 32,000 foreign workers for the industry.
“It has not fulfilled its obligations yet to bring in the foreign workers despite several assurances made since last October.
“The actual number of workers needed could easily be between 70,000 and 100,000 or more,” the source said.
The palm oil industry is in a critical situation as it has to deal with a perishable crop, according to the source.
“There are other severe ramifications to the industry, particularly the harvesting standards which could lead to crop and quality losses.
“Even with the additional workers, it would take some time to normalise the harvesting standards. The industry is trying to cope with the workers they have while recruiting locals through contractors to harvest as much as possible during this difficult period,” he added.
Despite the call for mechanisation, many smallholders have yet to utilise it.
“The current palm product prices are very attractive amid the global shortages in edible oils and there are tremendous opportunities for Malaysia to capitalise on this,” he added.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin had said last year that the sector would be receiving 32,000 foreign workers.
On May 10, she was quoted by news reports as saying that migrant workers were expected to arrive this month and June under a special government quota.
However, she did not say how many workers would be brought in.