‘All firms need work permits’

Outside help: Foreign workers harvesting oil palm fruit in Dengkil. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Medium and small plantations should also be provided with work permits as the larger firms, says the Malaysian Estate Owners’ Association (MEOA).

Amid the labour crunch facing the palm oil industry, it said the association was pleased to hear in the market that a big company had been allocated a permit to bring in a limited group of workers from Lombok, Indonesia, even if it was reported that the inaugural intake was aborted.

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“This means that the issuance of permits has started.

“Notwithstanding that there may be reasons and perceptions raised pertaining to the intake cancellation, the top priority now is to ensure the modus operandi is firmed up and the entire process can begin without delay so that all companies – big, medium or small players – will benefit from the return of the guest workers into Malaysia,” it said in a statement yesterday.

MEOA said that at the start of 2022, it estimated there was an acute shortage of around 120,000 workers in the local palm oil industry.

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According to Malaysia Productivity Corporation, this can deprive the industry and the nation of a massive RM28bil in revenue from unharvested fresh fruit bunches this year.

MEOA said: “Malaysia is missing a golden opportunity to ride on the growing global palm oil demand as it is unable to cope with the harvesting of all of the oil palm bunches at the appropriate harvesting rounds due to the limited labour force.”

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It warned that the acute labour shortage would also affect future earnings as many plantations would try to manage their labour productively by channelling scarce human resources merely towards crop harvesting and hence giving lower priority to other works in the fields, including palm maintenance along with fertilisation.

These would have an adverse “lag” effect on field conditions and crop yields, especially set against insufficient application of fertilisers, MEOA said.

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“Accessibility to the fields and oil palm trees would also be hindered due to overgrown fields and unpruned old fronds.

“Rehabilitation work will require more workforce and at higher costs,” it said.

MEOA urged all stakeholders, especially the relevant authorities, to “quickly connect all the dots and make the return of the guest workers a reality, sooner than later”.

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plantations , work permits , labour , palm oil


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