Indonesian palm oil workers to arrive in Malaysia after bureaucratic hiccups

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will receive the first group of Indonesian migrant workers on Wednesday since the reopening of its borders, in hopes of alleviating a major labor shortage in oil palm plantations.

The world’s second-largest palm oil producer is short of at least 1.2 million workers in its manufacturing, plantation and construction sectors, a shortage that is worsening daily as economic activity rebounds after the pandemic.

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The country has not seen a significant return of migrant workers despite reopening borders in April due to slow government approvals and protracted negotiations with Indonesia and Bangladesh over worker protections.

“To date, we have approved applications for 4,699 workers for the plantations (sector) alone,” Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Hermono told Reuters.

About 40 palm oil plantation workers are due to arrive on Wednesday, said Hermono, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name. He did not give details on the expected arrival date of these workers.

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Last month, Indonesia banned a group of about 150 plantation workers from traveling to Malaysia because recruiters failed to follow proper emigration procedures and most of the workers lacked the good visa.

The arrival of migrant workers will help ease a shortage of more than 100,000 workers in oil palm plantations, who have been forced to leave thousands of tonnes of palm fruit to rot on the trees due to a lack of harvesters.

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Malaysia’s human resources ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Writing by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

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