Soppoa: Where are the inbound foreign workers for Sarawak’s oil palm industry?

Harvested oil palm fruits. — file pic

KUCHING, May 2: The Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) reports that there is still no sign on inbound foreign workers for the Sarawak oil palm industry, despite the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) and Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) agreeing to expedite applications to bring in 32,000 foreign workers to Semenanjung Malaysia, which was approved last year.

According to a statement issued by Soppoa chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Felix Moh Mee Ho, the last two months have been a dramatic time for businesses.

“First was the announcement of the much anticipated uplifting of restrictions to allow international travelling to resume after two years of total lockdown.

“Second was the harsh raise of an additional RM300 and RM400 on the previous minimum wage, depending on areas of operations, without considering the views from a majority stakeholders,” he said.

He added that the federal government has promised that these two policies will allow the business industry to resume foreign worker recruitment, while higher pay will encourage more locals to take up jobs in various sectors.

“So far, none of the mentioned seems to give immediate realisation,” he stated.

Moh further said that it is highly likely the acute shortage of foreign workers faced by the Malaysian industry will not be able to be solved anytime soon.

“There are many signs that the Indonesian government will continue to restrict its citizens from seeking employment in Malaysia.

“Neither has there been any further progress since Malaysia and Bangladesh signed an agreement to reopen the job market several months ago.

“Like all sectors, Soppoa remains unclear of their prospects in terms of availability of foreign workers,” he explained.

Furthermore, he reiterated that the Sarawak palm oil industry was severely short of 45,000 foreign workers last year, and that this figure had now increased.

Moh said that Soppoa had actively engaged with the relevant State departments in the last few months, and that many of the issues raised had received overwhelming support.

He added that Soppoa placed high hopes in the State government to resolve the foreign worker shortage by directly negotiating with Indonesian counterparts to resume sending its citizens to work in Sarawak, expediting the consideration of approving the entry of foreign workers from other source countries for the plantation sector, and immediately cutting red tape and improving processing time for foreign worker recruitment. — DayakDaily