The oil palm industry is expected to contribute an export value of RM100 billion in 2021, an increase from the RM73.3 billion recorded last year, said Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin.
She said the stable oil price performance had generated significant export revenue for the country.
“Actually, the oil palm sector could be contributing up to RM120 billion in export value if not for the labour shortage due to the freeze on new foreign worker intake and lower palm output which led to a RM20 billion shortfall,” she told the media after the launch of the Mechanisation and Automation Research Consortium of Oil Palm (MARCOP) here today.
Crude palm oil (CPO) price hit a record high of RM5,404 per tonne on Nov 3, 2021. The average CPO price for January-October 2021 surged by 65 per cent to RM4,276.50 from the RM2,583.50 achieved in the corresponding period last year.
Meanwhile, elaborating on MARCOP’s establishment, Zuraida said the consortium received a total allocation of RM60 million for agricultural mechanisation technology research and commercialisation.
It will focus on mechanisation and automation technology in the Industry Revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) framework such as drones, robots and sensors for integrated and systematic operations to resolve issues faced by the oil palm plantation sector.
“The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry is targeting three years, that is, until 2024, for MARCOP to find the direction and usage of technology that can reduce labour dependence especially in oil palm harvesting,” Zuraida said.
MARCOP main committee chairman Datuk Mohamad Nageeb Abdul Wahab said CPO production was expected to be below 18 million tonnes this year, 20 per cent lower than the possible 20 million tonnes due to the shortage of 75,000 workers following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“MARCOP’s main focus is to resolve the problem in harvesting fresh fruit bunches which currently involves the use of nearly 80 per cent foreign labour.
“We hope that with (the introduction of) automation, it will be able to attract the interest of locals to venture into this field and reap higher earnings,” he added.