The plantation sector called for increased use of technology, avoiding deforestation

KUALA LANGAT: The plantation sector is urged not to clear down new forests to grow oil palm, but instead improve the use of technology to increase production and incomes.

Plantations and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said this was one of the three main issues highlighted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during a closed-door briefing with Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) executives regarding his working visit to the conglomerate’s headquarters in Pulau Carey, near here, today.

Johari said plantations are one of the largest contributing sectors to the country’s economy and the prime minister wants the sector to fulfill several aspects, including increasing the use of technology.

“The prime minister said we don’t want further deforestation, but we want to stay with what we have, but at the same time we want to increase crop yields, and one of the ways is to use technology,” he said during a meeting with reporters after a briefing that lasted more than half an hour.

Second Minister of Finance Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan also attended the briefing.

Commenting further, Johari said Anwar also emphasized that increasing the use of technology would not only increase palm oil yields but also help the government’s efforts to reduce dependence on foreign labor.

“In this regard, the Prime Minister said that only people working in 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) are using their services (foreign workers),” he said.

Johari said the Prime Minister also asked the plantation sector to adopt technology produced by start-ups to support the growth of these companies.

“The Prime Minister also emphasized how important it is that if there are start-ups that introduce their technology and are successful, we want to make sure that they can sell this technology to players in the plantation industry,” he said.

Johari said players in the plantation industry should emulate SDP, which has successfully developed and applied new machinery technology in the sector.

He said the use of technology employed by SDP has effectively increased the scope of work on the plantation to 12.5 hectares per worker compared to the existing eight hectares per worker.

He also said he was willing to consider ensuring that the Malaysian Palm Oil Board incorporated some of the technology used by SDP in the board’s day-to-day operations.

“We will then present it to all oil palm industry players so that they can emulate and leverage the technology used by SDP,” he said.