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Labour issue among key concerns for the plantation sector [27-08-2012]  
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Plantation players continue to call for incentives to enable further growth in the sector hoping that this year's budget will highlight some of the sector's recommendations.

Malaysian Rubber Board director general Datuk Salmiah Ahmad said that any initiative or incentive for labour concerns in the rubber plantation would be favourable in the currentscenario.

“One of the most important parameters that is of concern to the industry currently is labour in regards to the ease of getting foreign labour and the cost of getting the labour,” she said.

“Any initiative or incentive in this area, I think, will be welcomed by the plantation sector.”

She hoped that the grant for rubber replanting and new planting would continue so that the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) target of 40,000ha yearly replanting and 30,000ha new yearly planting for five years could be achieved.

Salmiah noted that the inclusion of rubber in the NKEA and the implementation of rubber replanting and new planting under the Entry Point Project 1 (EPP1) and Entry Point Project 2 (EPP2) were well received by the rubber industry in Malaysia.

“This year marks the beginning of the implementation of the EPP1 and EPP2 and the reponse from the rubber smallholders has been overwhelming,” she said, noting that 95% of the rubber produce in the country is from smallholders, contributions from estates or plantations are therefore small.

United Plantations Bhd executive director Datuk Carl Bek-Nielsen, who reiterated what he had hoped for in the last Budget, appealed to the Government to reintroduce the reinvestment allowance for plantation companies.

“It would be highly desirable if the Government could kindly consider reintroducing the reinvestment allowance as this would spur plantation companies to further upgrade and improve their existing facilities to better compete in the world market,” he told StarBiz.

Bek-Nielsen added that the reinvestment allowance would give opportunities to mechanise operations and improve the quality of work and living for those with milling and housing operation.

By mechanising some of the operations in plantations, lack of labour concerns could be addressed.

Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd president and chief executive officer Datuk Sabri Ahmad added that the Government should look into giving tax incentives for various operations under the sector,

On his budget wish list were grants or tax incentives for speciality oleo derivatives.

“There should be tax incentive for emerging markets like Africa for packed palm products and support for branding expenses for overseas market as well as tax incentive to accelerate replanting for organised smallholders,” he said.

Like many other big palm oil players, FGVH has been eyeing the African market for oil palm planting and palm products.

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