32 000 Foreign Workers For Plantations From This Month
Zuraida Kamaruddin tests a mattress made from kenaf fibre during her visit to the Kenaf Gallery at the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board headquarters in Kota Bharu. (Bernama pic)KOTA BHARU: Government approval has been granted for 32,000 foreign plantation workers who have completed their Covid-19 vaccination to be brought into Malaysia in stages from mid-October.
The plantation industries and commodities minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin, said the workers are to become harvesters as most Malaysians were not yet ready to carry out the task.
She said the effort was also part of initiatives carried out in her first 100 days on the job, which was to increase commodity exports.
Zuraida said the workers are from Indonesia and Bangladesh. Malaysia still needs foreign manpower as Malaysians are not ready to work as harvesters, although they are comfortable with other tasks, she said.
“However, when the country has acquired new technologies, maybe we will encourage Malaysians to work in plantations by offering more lucrative salaries.”
Zuraida said SOPs for the foreign workers were still being streamlined by the relevant authorities, such as the National Security Council and the health ministry.
She said major plantation companies were also ready to follow existing SOPs, such as ensuring that foreign workers recruited were fully vaccinated as well as providing suitable places for quarantine as part of efforts to contain Covid-19.
“These companies are also willing to bear the entry costs of workers from abroad, which would speed up their arrival,” Zuraida said, adding that
She also said that she was optimistic that the target of achieving RM180 billion in commodity exports within her 100 days in the ministry could be achieved as Malaysia’s commodity exports were valued at more than RM160 billion currently.
Malaysia sets a first with standards for kenaf
Zuraida was speaking after handing over documents on grading standards for kenaf at the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board headquarters here today.
She said Malaysia was the first country to develop standards for kenaf grading, a result of collaboration between the National Kenaf and Tobacco Board, the Standards Department and the Malaysian Timber Industry Board.
“This is the first such (grading) standard in the world. They have been working on it for four years,” she said.
Zuraida said the kenaf industry had great potential to produce high-value downstream products, such as mattresses.
“Kenaf fibre should be made the flagship of the board and they should come up with a more complete, effective and comprehensive marketing plan to make it a raw material in the production of kenaf-based products,” she said.
The minister also encouraged those with suitable land to take up kenaf farming, thus increasing the production and quality of the commodity in the country.
“Cultivation of kenaf is not too complicated and within four months it can produce a yield, which means we can get three cycles a year. For one hectare of land, we can collect about RM4,000 worth of production or RM12,000 a year,” she added.
Zuraida said Malaysia produced 7,000 tonnes of kenaf a year and currently, there are 1,000 smallholders and three major industry players cultivating the commodity. - FMT
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