Settlers want FGVH to help resolve labour shortage

By AFIQ AZIZ

A Felda land scheme in Negri Sembilan wants Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd’s (FGVH) management to resolve the foreign workers shortage issue which has prolonged for almost one year.

Labour shortage at the, one of the oldest land development schemes in the country, has impacted the livelihood of 16,000 settlers, said its chief Othman Parman.

He said FGVH chairman Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid should look into the matter and make resolving the issue as a key priority.

“We support the government decision to appoint any leaders as long as the settlers’ issues, such as the plantation workers, are efficiently handled.

“The foreign workers shortage issue has dragged on for almost a year. We were informed by that the relevant authorities have approved 6,000 foreign worker quotas to be employed in Felda Raja Alias. But, what the settlers want is for the issue to be solved as soon as possible,” Othman told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

The Felda land development scheme was introduced five decades ago where land are cleared and awarded to settlers to plant commodities — mainly palm oil. Each settler was allocated about 1,000 sq m of residential area and 4ha of land to work on.

However, most of these plots of land are owned by ageing settlers, forcing these land owners to hire foreign labours to work on scheme. Migration of the educated second-generation Felda settlers to seek better paying jobs in the cities has compounded the problem.

Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer of palm oil and accounts for 29% of global palm oil production and 37% of world exports. Oil palm plantations cover over 73% or 5.7 million ha of agri-cultural land in the country, larger than the size of the Netherlands. It contributes RM38.5 billion to the country’s economy. But the sector depends largely on foreign workers, especially from Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Without enough workers, Othman said the 16,000 settlers in the scheme would be severely impacted.

“As of now, many parts of the plantations have been over-run by weeds and that affects the trees’ production. As a result, settlers are losing income,” he said.

Othman hopes the issue would be resolved soon with the employment of foreign workers.

Azhar was appointed to the chair for one of the world’s largest palm oil company which depends on Felda schemes to deliver the palm oil fruit bunches.

Federation of Public Listed Companies Bhd president Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas said new Felda generation should switch to automation such as machine and robots to enhance their operation efficiency.

“In this digital era, we should use more robots and technologies, and refrain from using too many labourers, especially foreign workers due to its social repercussion,” he said.