MELAKA: Workers from Indonesia are top on the preferred list by oil palm plantation owners and smallholders, says caretaker Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng.
He said Indonesian workers were known to have the expertise and experience in harvesting and collecting fresh fruit bunches.
“Apart from Indonesia, we are also looking into other source countries to address the shortage of manpower in the sector,” he added.
Wee said the sector was facing a shortage of about 80,000 workers, while only 13,000 foreign workers managed to be employed this year.
An exercise to employ Malaysians in oil palm plantations resulted only in a negligible increase of 0.6% for this year, he said after opening a seminar on labour and mechanisation in plantations (LAMP 2020) here yesterday.
The event was also attended by Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) director-general Datuk Dr Ahmad Parveez Ghulam Kadir.
The freeze on the entry of Indonesian workers to Malaysia implemented by the Indonesian government in 2021 had caused a shortage of foreign workers here and contributed to the decline in crude palm oil production.
Last year, about 391,000 workers were employed in the oil palm plantation sector where 74% were foreigners, mostly Indonesians.
Wee said the palm oil sector should enhance the use of technology in the field and reduce its dependency on labour in harvesting.
He added that MPOB carried out development work on 35 types of technology to ease field work and improve plantation efficiency and manpower performance.
Many of these technologies, he said, had also been commercialised.