KUCHING: In 2017, the palm oil industry provided employment to over 119,521 people (locals and foreign workers) with more than 39,213 smallholders actively involved in the industry, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi (Dr) Abang Johari Tun Openg. “Today, the palm oil industry is the main contributor of revenue from the agriculture sector in the State and also for the development of rural economies as well as development of rural areas.
“The State’s target of two million hectares for oil palm by 2020 is well under way and we have also pledged that no more new areas will be opened up for oil palm cultivation in the State except for NCR titled lands,” he said during the 50th anniversary gala dinner of Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad (SOPB) at Imperial Hotel here on Wednesday. On the challenges faced by the oil palm industry in the State, Abang Johari said that the industry was facing labour shortages.
“This needs to be addressed by innovative means rather than just increasing the number of workers. “Research and development will play a significant part through the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and mechanisation. “These and other uses of ICT will enable the industry to gain competitive edge and further enhances the development of the industry locally while adding value to the whole industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Group Executive Officer of SOPB, Paul Wong Hee Kwong, said that as a responsible palm oil producer, SOPB has put great emphasis on sustainability and quality of its supply chain. “By the end of this year, 100 per cent of the palm products produced by SOPB will be fully certified under Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO).
“In addition, more than 70 per cent of SOPB group operations have also been certified under International Sustainable Carbon Certification (ISCC). “This shows that SOPB is committed towards producing sustainable certified palm oil to meet the demands of world market and its end consumers,” said Wong. Also present were Head of State, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his wife, Toh Puan Datuk Patinggi Raghad Kurdi Taib, and Abang Johari’s wife, Datin Patinggi Dato Juma’ani Tun Tuanku Bujang.