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Pressing palm oil issues [22-06-2011]  
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Labour shortage, low wage structure, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification, stagnating yield, high taxes and levies as well as Malaysia losing its competitiveness in the palm-based downstream activities to Indonesia, hogged the limelight at the Incorporated of Society of Planters National Seminar 2011 (ISP NATSEM 2011) yesterday.

While the Government is pushing for the growth of the oil palm plantation sector, the industry players want it to address the pressing issues and their repercussions on the industry.

Low wages and job-hopping among plantation workers were debated among the speakers and 800 participants at the seminar following Sime Darby Bhd's recent move to give its 37,000 estate workers and non-executive staff a flat wage increase of RM200 from July 1. The plantation workers' quarters will also be upgraded to housing estates with mini-townships.

It is believed that many workers in other plantation companies were now seeking similar terms.

Industry players also wanted the Government to review on the 40% taxes and levies on the industry players.

Felda Global Ventures Holdings Sdn Bhd group president and CEO Datuk Sabri Ahmad had asked for closer cooperation and sharing of R&D and knowledge between planters, the Government and its agencies.

He also questioned the competitiveness of Malaysia's downstream activities as refiners were now said to be shifting to Indonesia to source for cheaper raw material.

TH Plantations Bhd CEO Datuk Zainal Azwar Zainal Aminuddin warned plantation companies on the need to seek clarification on the Sarawak state land issue especially when dealing with the Nativel Customary Right land for oil palm cultivation.

Representatives from Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd, group plantation director Roy Lim and sustainability general manager Sin Chuan Eng, as well as Wilmar International Ltd group sustainability controller Simon Siburat had expressed the importance of the RSPO certification among industry players.

Federal Land Development Authority's Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Wahab also highlighted the challenges encountered by Felda on the RSPO certification on smallholders holdings at a panel discussion chaired by Malaysian Palm Oil Council CEO Tan Sri Yusof Basiron.

Malaysian Palm Oil Board director-general Datuk Choo Yuen May said MPOB encouraged the industry players to voice out their grouses to the board.

“MPOB will bring up these issues with the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry,” she said adding that the board was inviting the industry players on June 30 for a dialogue session with the minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

Sawit Kinabalu Group managing director Othman Walat had asked the Government to improve the logistics, infrastructure and utilities like electrity and water in the outskirst of Sabah where many oil plantations are located.

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