Malaysia palm plantations urge government to let foreign workers return

A worker collects palm oil fruits at a plantation, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Klang, Malaysia, June 15, 2020. Picture taken June 15, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 June 2020

Malaysia palm plantations urge government to let foreign workers return

  • The palm-oil industry in Malaysia, the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of palm oil, faces a worsening of its chronic labor shortage

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm plantations have urged the government to let foreign workers return, warning of severe damage to the palm-oil industry if it is not granted an exemption from a hiring freeze.
The Malaysian Estate Owners’ Association implored the government in a statement on Friday to consider the survival and sustainability of the sector and let grower companies that have been unable to recruit locally hire foreign workers immediately.
The palm-oil industry in Malaysia, the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of palm oil, faces a worsening of its chronic labor shortage. It relies on foreigners for 70 percent of its plantation workforce and almost all its field work, especially people from Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Thousands have left the plantations for home as borders closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding pressure in an industry where 2 percent to 3 percentage of foreign workers leave each year.
“A major concern is that the peak crop production season is around the corner in a few months from now and the palm oil industry is crucially dependent on the availability of workers,” said the association, which represents owners of small and midsize plantations.
It said decreased crop production would curb the output of crude palm oil and palm kernels as extraction rates will continue falling beyond this year. While this may push crude palm oil prices up, the association warned unattended plantations could eventually lead to a decline of the industry.


Malaysia launches Al Jazeera ‘sedition’ probe over documentary on migrant workers

Updated 36 min 28 sec ago

Malaysia launches Al Jazeera ‘sedition’ probe over documentary on migrant workers

  • Police call for program makers to come forward, explain report on mass arrests claim in COVID-19 lockdown hotspots

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities on Tuesday launched an investigation into a TV documentary by Qatari state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera on the alleged mass arrests of migrant workers in Malaysia during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdowns.

Officials said the film report, titled “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” and produced by Al Jazeera’s 101 East news program, had been an attempt to sully Malaysia’s international image.

The documentary highlighted the plight of thousands of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids carried out in COVID-19 lockdown hotspots.

In a statement, Federal Criminal Investigations Department director, commissioner Huzir Mohamed, said: “The baseless and one-sided news report had subsequently caused uncertainty and anxiety among the majority of the population, as if portraying the government’s unyielding approach toward the broadcasting of inaccurate news on the government’s success in containing the outbreak.

“No one will be spared from the long arm of the law if they are found to have tarnished the country’s image.”

Mohamed added that police had so far received at least five police reports regarding the case and identified several individuals involved in assisting with the reporting.

“The police also call for the Al Jazeera journalist and others involved in the documentary production to come forward as soon as possible,” the commissioner said, adding that the channel would be investigated for alleged sedition.

The Malaysian Immigration Department also circulated a notice on Tuesday, saying it was looking for a 25-year-old Bangladeshi national who was one of the people quoted by Al Jazeera in the documentary.

Al Jazeera has so far not commented on the investigation.