Be open to hiring workers from India and Pakistan, Zuraida tells industry players

KUALA LUMPUR: India and Pakistan have offered to send their citizens to work in Malaysian plantations, says Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin (pic).

“We also ask industry players to be open to accept workers from India and Pakistan who are ready (to work in Malaysia),” the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister said during the Oral Question and Answer session in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Aug 2).

Zuraida (PBM-Ampang) was responding to a supplementary question by Datuk Seri Mohd Salim Sharif (BN-Jempol) on when the shortage of foreign workers will be resolved as the palm oil sector has recorded losses to the tune of billions of ringgit.

She said sourcing workers from India and Pakistan will be a short- term measure given the problems that Malaysia is facing with Indonesia and Bangladesh in terms of sourcing foreign labour from the two countries.

“We feel that to resolve the problem immediately, we have to bring in these workers to manage the fruits (fresh fruit bunch),” she added.

She said the ministry has also set up a committee to help the industry with their application for foreign workers.

“We are working together with the Human Resources Ministry. The officials from the ministry will manage the process right from the application to the arrival of the workers from overseas,” she said.

Nevertheless, we will not say that this will resolve the whole problem,” she added.

Zuraida conceded that the entry of foreign workers is still slow and is expected to pick up this month.

“The slight delay of foreign workers is due to the new Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS),” she said.

She said if the system is implemented well, foreign workers who enter the country can be tracked and they cannot switch jobs.

Apart from that, Zuraida said the plantation industry has also embarked on automation efforts to reduce dependence on foreign labour.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) reportedly said that it expects about 52,000 migrant workers to arrive by the end of the year.