Labour shortage will affect cooking oil supply in Sabah – Warisan


Darell Leiking

KOTA KINABALU (Sept 18): Parti Warisan has expressed its concern on the issues currently faced by oil palm smallholders in Sabah especially on labour shortage which will affect the supply of subsidized cooking oil in the market.

The party also believes that the government must be prepared for the mass return of Indonesian workers back to their country of origin and potential threat of El Nino phenomenon that will make things worst.

Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking said that there is an urgent need for the State Government to review, enhance and manage the palm oil industry in Sabah properly to ensure that it will benefit Sabahans directly.

“Since labour matter in the palm oil industry falls under the RSPO guidelines, it is imperative that the State Government plays its role as the facilitator especially in terms of workers’ documentation,” he said in a statement on Monday.

Leiking added the State Government should also reduce the palm oil sales tax of 7.5% that is burdensome to smallholders at a time when they are unable to maximize their profits and to review the same only after all issues have been sorted out.

“We also need to create separate database on CPO and other palm oil derivatives revenues contributed by district-producing palm oil and to apply the same principle of fair distribution of finances under MA63 by ensuring that all these districts receive back at least 40% from their respective contribution for public infrastructures and utilities upgrades or management purposes in their own locality,” the former Minister of Trade and Industry stated.

“Finally, until and unless we have achieved our food self sufficiency level (SSL) target and restructuring of palm oil industry in the State has been completed, Sabah must prioritize the welfare of Sabahans by banning all types of exportation of cooking oil and to intensify monitoring at the border to prevent smuggling of the same to neighbouring countries,” he added.

Warisan assemblyman for Tunku, Assaffal Alian, stated that Sabahans still remember the cooking oil shortage crisis that hit the State last year and when the price of 1kg of subsidized cooking oil soared from RM2.70 to RM6.00 per packet.

“As with the rest of Sabahans, Warisan initially thought that the shortage was caused solely by hoarding and smuggling activities but when the party checked the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) report on State GDP 2022, we realized that it may not be so.

“DOSM reported that the agriculture sector for Sabah fell by 0.2 per cent (2021 : -2.2%) owing to a contraction in the crops sub-sector, primarily oil palm activity and when Warisan checked further, we noted from MPOB report that CPO production in Sabah declined by 1.7% from 4.36 million tonnes in 2021 to 4.29 million tonnes in 2022.

“Interestingly, MPOB also confirmed that for the same year (2022), CPO production in the Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak increased by 3.2% and 2.5% to 10.16 million tonnes and 4.01 million tonnes respectively and this rouse our curiosity as to why is it that both Peninsular and Sarawak registered an increase but Sabah a decrease.

“This is so since in terms of matured palm oils, Sabah has 1,326,940 hectares and Sarawak 1,488,917 hectares so it would be illogical to say that weather was the cause of it (decrease) since both States are located on the same island,” he said.

Assaffal added during the last State Assembly sitting, Warisan president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal queried the reason for the decrease in the palm oil industry as reported by DOSM but it is apparent that the State’s Ministry of Agriculture Fishery and Food Industry (MAFI) dodged the question when it instead, in its written answer, stated that Sabah’s palm oil export value increased by 25%.

Unsatisfied, Warisan investigated further and was shocked to know that“while FFB yield in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak increased by 1.0% and 1.4% to 16.41 tonnes per hectare and 14.13 tonnes per hectare in 2022 respectively compared to that of 2021, FFB yield in Sabah decreased by 2.4% to 15.39 tonnes per hectare in 2022 compared to that of 2021.”

“Warisan now believes that the incidences of subsidized cooking oil shortage in the State is caused not only by exportation or smuggling of cooking oil to neighbouring countries but also due to insufficient manpower to harvest the palm oil fruits.

“And it will be our smallholders who are unable to maximize their profit and yet expected to pay the sales tax of 7.5%, most affected by this labour shortage and also the Sabahans who need the subsidized cooking oil,” said Assaffal.

With mass exodus of Indonesian workers from Sabah to Kalimantan imminent as more and more labours will be required at that region, and compounded by El Nino threat, he said Warisan foresees continued recurring incidences of subsidized cooking oil shortage unless the State Government act now.