KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 -- The Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) through the Malaysian Palm Oil Board is collaborating with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to develop the latest machinery and technology for the oil palm plantation sector.
Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said the innovations would reduce the sector’s dependence on foreign labour.
"The ministry is also moving to promote oil palm cultivation among the indigenous people and draw their interest in working in the plantations, and Gerik in Perak has been selected for this pilot project,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat today.
He was responding to Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman (BN-SALAK) who wanted to know about the mechanism used by the government to reduce the sector’s dependence on foreign labour.
While winding-up the debate on the motion of thanks for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong's Royal Address for his ministry, he had noted that the plantation sector was labour-intensive and highly dependent on foreign labour.
As of July 31, 2020, it is estimated that about 500,000 workers are involved in the sector, with the oil palm plantation sub-sector being the most dependent on foreign labour or 77 per cent of the figure.
Meanwhile, Mohd Khairuddin said the government would help as a short term measure to resolve issues related to shortage of foreign labour through easing the condition in the application programme for change of employer.
"The new condition for this procedure provides affected employers unable to continue hiring foreign workers the flexibility to transfer all or some of their foreign workers to other companies that need manpower,” he said.
The minister said 99.64 per cent of the 681,532 hectares of oil palm plantations under 231,576 organised smallholders nationwide have obtained the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification as of July 29, 2020.
As for independent smallholders involving 63,480, only 24.12 per cent of the 986,331 hectares under them have been MSPO certified, he said.
He said the ministry would continue to encourage the involvement of more independent smallholders in the MSPO certification scheme either through membership in the Sustainable Palm Oil Cluster or independent certification clusters under the management of their respective cooperatives or palm oil mills.
"The government will continue to bear the cost of the MSPO certification for oil palm smallholders," he added.