Image credit: Borneo Post Online

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must develop an action plan to retain existing talents and attract a new generation of planters to be the driving force of the industry. 

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said the industry would be facing a shortage of talented and qualified planters. 

"Some planters have retired or are about to retire and some are even seeking greener pastures in other countries. In view of this, the plantation sector will be facing a shortage of qualified planters," he said during the opening speech at the 10th International Planters Conference 2023 (IPC 2023) today.

His speech was read by the secretary-general of the Ministry of Plantation and Commodities Datuk Mad Zaidi Mohd Karli@Sukari.

Fadillah, who is also the Minister of Plantation and Commodities, said teamwork is needed to find solutions for the survival of the industry. 

He also pointed out that the ministry has set up various platforms and mechanisms for the stakeholders to share ideas, knowledge and feedback in the formulation of policies and guidelines. 

"We need agreement and consensus to move forward in reaching our goals and the Incorporated Society of Planters (ISP) could play an active role in the formulation of policies and guidelines," he said. 

Fadillah added that the ministry will step in with viable schemes and regulations to ensure the adaptation of important platform technologies and increase productivity through high-end technology. 

"In this respect, the Mechanisation and Automation Research Consortium of Oil Palm (MARCOP) could play an active role in realising these goals," he said. 

In line with the government's efforts on the National Agricommodity Policy 2021-2030 and the 12th Malaysia Plan, the minister said he hopes that the planters would be equipped with the latest knowledge, skills and digital know-how which could be put into practice to overcome all the issues and challenges in the industry. 

"Since the government has agreed to (put a) cap on the total oil palm cultivated area, the onus is on the planters to increase the productivity of the existing land through good agricultural practices, new genomics planting materials and mechanisation and automation," he advised. Besides that, he said it is prudent to manage the cost of operations despite rising input costs.

On the global level, he noted that Malaysia ranks as the largest exporter of rubber gloves, second largest producer and exporter of palm oil, fifth largest producer of pepper, sixth largest cocoa grinder and the 12th largest exporter of furniture.

"The government focused on concerted efforts to rejuvenate all economic sectors to ensure the growth momentum is restored. 

"For this purpose, the focus will be on promoting a structural change through land consolidation, enhancing the utilisation of big data analytics, adoption of technology, accelerating talent development, expanding and diversifying export markets, improving governance and policy to fulfil sustainability demands and pursuing a circular economy business model such as in the biomass industry," Fadillah said.