Oil palm body welcomes decision to allow return of foreign manpower

KUCHING: The Sarawak government’s decision to allow healthy foreign workers to enter Sarawak under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) means survival for the palm oil industry.

Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association (Soppoa) chairman David Tiong thanked Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for allowing 27,000 foreign workers entry into Sarawak effective March 1.

“This decision will also avoid business losses or closures and a major step to eliminate undocumented workers coming into the state as previously highlighted by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman,” he said on Friday (March 5).

The palm oil industry, he said, had been plagued by continuous acute labour shortage, as well as low crop yields, low mill oil extraction rate (OER), pest and diseases, soil, and climatic issues affecting crop yields, which are performing well below those in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.

“With healthy foreign workers now allowed to enter, this number one priority issue in the industry should be resolved amicably by the quick intervention of the caring state government with strong leadership, good foresight, compassion, and help for the continuous economical development of the industry here.”

Tiong stressed that plantations and other sectors employing foreign workers must reciprocate the good gesture from the state government by fully cooperating, practicing, and complying with the SOPs set by SDMC at all times.

“On behalf of the palm oil industry in Sarawak, Soppoa would like to say ‘thank you’ to Abang Johari for his consent, understanding, and support to the industry here.

“In addition, a similar note of thanks should also go to all state ministers involved, especially Douglas Uggah and the esteemed team, the State Secretary, Labor Department, Immigration Department and the Chief Minister’s Office.”

Tiong added that apart from allowing new foreign workers to enter, the state government was also allowing for a recalibration of foreign workers with expired documents to be allowed to extend their work permits to continue to work in Sarawak, which helps prevent the outflow of healthy foreign workers who are already in the state.