KUALA LUMPUR: The Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) has urged plantation owners to increase the use of automation technology to reduce dependency on foreign workers and make the country’s palm oil industry more resilient in the long run.
MPIC Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said that based on studies and research conducted by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, the deployment of automation technologies such as using drones for the purpose of surveillance and pest control in plantations would attract the locals to work in the sector.
“MPIC feels that the current labour crunch in the palm oil sector will spur planters to start investing in technological tools and boost their own bottom lines in the long run.
“A greater uptake in automation can help position palm oil as the preferred edible oil globally, in line with the ongoing ‘Malaysian Palm Oil Full of Goodness’ Campaign,” she said in a statement.
She said that moving forward, the ministry hopes that plantation owners will look into long-term solutions to cut down their dependency on foreign workers.
At the same time, Zuraida said the ministry will continue to seek for solutions to address the manpower shortage in the plantation sector, especially oil palm.
“The MPIC is aware of the woes faced by the Malaysian Estate Owners ’Association where a severe labour crunch of about 120,000 workers is said to be capable of causing losses in earnings by up to five per cent to 10 per cent.
“All parties should be aware that among the main reasons for the shortage of manpower in the plantation sector was the closure of international borders to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country and protect the people from the infectious disease,” she said.
She added that the ministry is currently working closely with the Human Resources Ministry, Wisma Putra, the Immigration Department and the Co-operative Commission Malaysia, among others, to look into ways to expeditiously resolve the issue.
The minister said that in September 2021 last year, the MPIC had approved plans to bring in 32,000 migrant workers for palm oil estates nationwide, although the issue of permits had been brought to its attention.
“Plantation owners must also in the future, be open to workers from countries like India and Pakistan, and not be too dependent on workers from Indonesia and Bangladesh,” she added. — Bernama