RM10.46bil lost in unpicked oil palm fruit due to labour shortage

Plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin says two tonnes of oil palm fruit went unharvested each day between January and May.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s oil palm sector has lost an estimated RM10.46 billion worth of unpicked fruit in the first five months of this year because of the ongoing labour shortage.

Plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said there was a shortage of 28,940 labourers in the industry, with an estimated productivity of harvesting two tonnes of oil palm fruit a day.

She said this comes up to about 57,880 tonnes of fresh oil palm fruit being unharvested a day, or 1.5 million tonnes a month.

Based on this calculation, it is estimated that unpicked oil palm fruit due to a lack of labourers in the first five months of 2022 is around 7.52 million tonnes.

“This comes up to a value of RM10.46 billion, taking into account the average price of oil palm fruit from January to May, which was at RM1,390 per metric tonne,” she said in a parliamentary written reply.

To resolve this, Zuraida said, the government had been encouraging plantations to increase the use of machines to reduce dependence on labour.

This would also boost productivity and increase workers’ income.

“And it is hoped that this would, in turn, attract more young Malaysians to join this sector,” she said.

She said the industry was heavily dependent on foreign labour, with 75% of manpower on farms comprising migrant workers.

She was responding to a question from Dr Azman Ismail (PH-Kuala Kedah) on the labour shortage and its effect on the sector.

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