KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 (Bernama) -- The adoption of farm mechanisation and
better salary packages for local workers is crucial to overcome heavy dependence
on foreign labour in the country''s oil palm industry, said Minister of
Plantation Industries and Commodities Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.
He said that currently, oil palm plantations were facing a severe labour
shortage of about 35,473 workers.
As the industry progressed, he said the plantation sector needed to undergo
a paradigm shift from one that was heavily reliant on labour to mechanisation,
which eventually would reduce dependency on foreign labour.
Dompok said this in his opening speech at the Palm Industry Labour: Issues,
Performances and Sustainability Seminar (PILIPS 2012), organised by the
Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) here today. The text of his speech was read out
by his deputy Datuk Hamzah Zainudin.
Dompok noted that the adoption of mechanisation was still limited to large
oil palm plantations due to high investment costs.
DOMPOK-MECHANISATION (LAST) KUALA LUMPUR
He lamented that the high number of foreign workers employed in the
plantation sector had caused a negative impact on the Gross National Income
(GNI) of the industry.
"It is estimated that foreign workers remit an average of 60 per cent of
their income back to their home countries," he said.
Out of the 491,339 workers in the oil palm industry, 76 per cent of the
workforce comprise foreign workers mainly from Indonesia. They are employed as
harvesters, fresh fruit bunch collectors and field workers for weeding,
fertiliser application and pruning.
"In efforts to mitigate the over-dependence on foreign labour and woo the
locals, the ministry through its agencies has set up the Institute of Malaysian
Plantation and Commodities (IMPAC) to develop human capital, encompassing levels
of operations, support services and marketing," Dompok added.
MPOB chairman Datuk Seri Shahrir Abdul Samad said that the oil palm
industry was projected to contribute RM178 billion to the GNI by 2020, which
would create an additional 41,000 jobs of which 40 per cent would be
high-skilled levels with an average monthly income of RM6,000.
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