MPOB to entice local plantation workforce with incentives

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIAN Palm Oil Board (MPOB) plans to provide incentives through the Malaysian Palm Oil Training Centre (Plasma) to encourage more local participation in the plantation industry.

Its chairman Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub said the industry’s relatively low salary may have deterred locals to work in the plantations which then forces companies to heavily rely on foreign labour, particularly on the heavy manual works.

“MPOB plans to increase the efficacy of Plasma and widen the expertise provided at the centre beyond the plantation management.

“Higher salaries and incentive schemes may boost the participation of local workforce to work in the plantations, which hopefully can reduce Malaysia’s dependency on foreign labour,” he said in a press conference in Puchong, Selangor, yesterday.

He said the incentive scheme is being fine-tuned before it is presented to the ministry for approval.

Plasma was established in 2006 to develop local talents for Malaysia’s plantation industry and reduce the country’s dependency on foreign workforce.

Ahmad Jazlan said Plasma is also offering the Farm Mechanisation Operators Course, a skills training for youths who are interested in oil palm cultivation.

The impact of the labour shortage on the local planters is expected to be highly visible between September and December, which is regarded as the “peak cycle” where the palm trees are producing the most fruits compared to the rest of the year.

With the international borders still closed amid the Covid-19 pandemic, palm oil firms are forced to seek local workforce to match with the potential production rate.

Previously, the Malaysian Palm Oil Association mentioned that the country had lost about 25% of the potential production this year due to labour shortage.

As of last April, the country’s plantation industry employed about 338,206 foreign workers, or 77% of the total workforce where they occupied the bulk of the jobs on the field.

Separately, MPOB, through a collaboration with Orion Biosains Sdn Bhd, has established a screening technology to sieve through low-yielding palm seeds during the seedling stage before planting.

Ahmad Jazlan said the technology could identify and separate the tenera palm seeds, the high-yield palm which can produce 30% higher in extraction rate, to ensure the maximum output is achieved during each harvest cycle.

“This screening technology adds to MPOB’s success in decoding the oil palm genome sequence, which led to the discovery of high-yielding palms that are currently used in commercial planting.

“By selectively identifying the high-yielding tenera palms, we can ensure that smallholders and plantations throughout the country are planting the ultra-high materials,” he said.

At present, about 90% of the oil palms cultivated in the country are from the high-yielding tenera palm trees.

Oil palm seed producers are currently practising selective plant breeding techniques to maximise the planting of tenera palms, which produce a thin-shell palm fruit resulting in more oils.