Plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin with Indian minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan in New Delhi.
Malaysia and India are mulling a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on labor intake for the plantation sector, said plantation industries and commodities minister Zuraida Kamaruddin.
She said in her discussions with Indian minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan yesterday, she had spoken of the high demand for foreign workers in Malaysia’s plantation industries.
“My meeting (with Muraleedharan) was about making long-term arrangements for labor supply in the plantation sector,” she told Bernama, adding that they discussed signing an MoU between the two countries.
Zuraida, who arrived in India on Sunday for a four-day visit to promote agriculture exports, said Malaysia will increase its palm oil production this year with the intake of more foreign workers following a 5% decline last year due to a pandemic-induced labor shortage.
She said thousands of new plantation workers will be hired from Bangladesh, India and Indonesia to make up for the shortfall as demand for Malaysian palm oil continues to grow.
“Malaysia will be able to supply more palm oil (to overseas markets) when the labor shortage is addressed. We plan to bring in 32,000 more foreign workers. Applications from employers are being processed,” she said.
Malaysia’s palm oil production last year dropped to 18.1 million tons from 19.1 million tons in 2020 as COVID-19 border controls disrupted labor recruitment.
At the same time, she said, Malaysia is working on mechanization in the plantation industry to reduce its dependence on foreign workforce.
She said a RM60 million project in collaboration with the Mechanization and Automation Research Consortium of Oil Palm was approved last year to deliver automation solutions within three to five years.
Commenting on commodities trade with India, Zuraida said there is scope for Indian and Malaysian companies to set up joint ventures for palm oil-based downstream products.
India bought about 3.6 million tons of palm oil last year, representing an increase of 31% over the volume in 2020.
Zuraida said while India is expected to buy more Malaysian palm oil to meet domestic demand, companies from the two countries can diversify trade linkages with collaboration in technology and new products for the wider regional market.
Addressing representatives of Indian trade associations and companies, she invited them to take part in the Malaysia International Agri-Commodity Exhibition and Seminars to be held in Kuala Lumpur in June and to explore specific areas of business projects with their Malaysian counterparts.