Planters are proposing to the government to waive taxes on import of tractors, bulldozers and excavators, in the hope of speeding up mechanisation and productivity at oil palm fields.
"The import duties on agricultural machinery currently range from 15 to 30 per cent," said TH Plantations Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Zainal Azwar Zainal Aminuddin.
"In the interest of accommodative policy for food production, we urge the government to waive import duties on agricultural machinery," he said.
Zainal Azwar was speaking to Business Times after presenting his paper titled "Accelerating Mechanisation for Higher Productivity" at a seminar organised by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board here yesterday.
Malaysia is now the world's second largest palm oil producer after Indonesia. But data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board is showing a worrying trend - palm oil output is likely to stagnate at around 18.5 million tonnes since 2010.
Assuming this amount of oil is gathered across five million hectares, this year's yield will only total 3.6 tonnes a hectare in a year. Many planters say this is due to a severe shortage of harvesters.
Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, who officiated at the seminar, said the plantation sector needs to undergo a paradigm shift from one that is heavily reliant on labour to mechanisation, which eventually will reduce dependency on foreign labour.
Zainal Azwar concurred and spoke of the need to establish a Mechanisation Index to measure harvesting productivity at various oil palm estates throughout the country.
In efforts to woo more locals to work with the plantation sector, Dompok said his ministry has set up the Institute of Malaysian Plantation and Commodities to develop human capital, encompassing levels of operations, support services and marketing.