BACKBONE OF DEVELOPMENT: Sector isthe second biggest employer in Malaysia
MALAYSIA is one of the largest producers and exporters of palm oil in the world and the oil palm industry has been the backbone of the country’s social and economic development.
Since more than 90 per cent of its production is exported, the industry is one of the top earners for the country, contributing about RM59.8 billion in foreign exchange in 2010.
Currently, the oil palm industry as a whole, including the downstream sectors, employs close to one million people directly and indirectly, making it the second biggest employer after the government.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, in his speech at the 7th International Planters Conference (IPC) here recently, said the total planted area was close to five million hectares last year, generating export earnings of RM83.4 billion.
This industry, he said, has been identified as one of the key sectors in the Economic Transformation Programme, aimed at making Malaysia a high-income nation by 2020.
“Towards achieving this objective, eight Entry Point Projects spanning across the whole palm oil value chain, from upstream plantations to downstream processing, are being implemented,” he said.
Dompok said in view of the sector’s growth and potential, those involved especially in the production of food products will continue to assume an important role in the future.
This is taking into account the food requirements of the global population, currently at seven billion, and the lack of suitable land for further expansion of planted areas.
“Against this background, we need to explore and invest in research and development (R&D) that can contribute towards optimisation of the current landbank and the development of new products, as well as utilise the biomass from the plantation sector to tap new potentials,” he said.
Identifying new business directions in the plantation sector and rejuvenating this sector to new directions will no doubt require knowledge human capital who can explore measures to increase productivity to new heights.
The plantation industry said the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) have driven economic growth and the country’s sustainable oil palm plantation has brought about a win-win situation.
It created jobs for the poorest people, including native population, and has triggered a number of downstream activities, bringing in revenue for national development and stability.
Rural communities are provided hands-on training that uplifts the skills of low-educated workers, while the Malaysian plantation management is highly developed, working with technical know-how enhanced through an industry-funded R&D system.
Even smallholders have access to technologies via an extension service provided by the MPOB and experts from estates participating in the nucleus partnership system.
Palm oil processing has also triggered downstream industrial, commercial and retail operations in the food and oleochemical sectors. This has had a positive knock-on impact on jobs and wealth creation.
Billions of ringgit earned from trade in palm oil are also channeled to economic development and social well-being, said MPOB.
Malaysia, which aims to boost the palm oil industry’s output to gross domestic product to RM21.9 billion with RM69.3 billion in exports earnings during the 10th Malaysia Plan period (2011-2015), is promoting the country as a global hub for palm oil and the preferred destination for foreign investments in oleochemical-based products, bulking facilities and R&D.
In 2010, exports of palm oil and its related derivatives brought the most revenue to Malaysia with an amount of RM62.9 billion, said MPOC chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron in his plenary lecture at the recent IPC.
He said as global demand for palm oil is set to continue in future, it is important to ensure the constant supply of the commodity to the world.
With such demand, comes the issue of finding the right and suitable human capital to run plantation fields and factory operations from field workers to good supervisors and competent managers.
Yusof noted that the shortage of labour in plantation agriculture has been lamented for a long time.
“It is time to put the best talent together to come up with cheaper and practical mechanised solutions,” he said.
Source : Business Times
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