24.03.2020 (The Malaysian Reserve) - THE government will conduct checks at estates and facilities run by oil palm and rubber companies to ensure they comply with federal orders to curb the spread of Covid-19 as operations continue.
Putrajaya last week agreed to exempt the oil palm and rubber sectors from closure under the Movement Control Order (MCO) to ensure steady supplies of edible oils and rubber products in the global market.
Malaysia is the second-largest palm producer globally after Indonesia and is home to the world’s largest glovemakers.
Surveys will be carried out later this week at selected estates, processing facilities and factories, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali said.
“My two deputies will head out this week to monitor the compliance rate within the plantation industry and see if activities carried out in rubber estates or in oil palm factories, with the exemption given, adhere to guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health (MoH),” he told a news conference yesterday.
The timber sector, however, will only be allowed to operate on a case-by-case basis.
Mohd Khairuddin said discussions will be held with the National Security Council to extend the exemption to the timber sector and also allow glove manufacturers to operate at 100% capacity.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has infected over 350,000 people and resulted in more than 15,000 deaths worldwide (as at press time), has created a surge in global demand for rubber gloves.
Over the past week, Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma) president Denis Low has continued to pressure the government to allow the industry to operate in full force.
“Please allow us to utilise 100% of our workforce or else the world will be short of gloves,” said Low, who was also in attendance at the media conference yesterday.
He had previously said that such a move would allow the rubber glove sector to achieve its capacity of 220 billion pieces in 2020. Margma and the Malaysian Rubber Export Promotion Council had earlier committed to a contribution of 21 million rubber gloves worth RM3.5 million to MoH, the Royal Malaysia Police, Immigration Department, and the Fire and Rescue Department.
The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA), with 120 member companies, had also made a contribution of ventilators, Covid-19 test kits, hand sanitisers, face masks and personal protective equipment suits worth RM5 million.
“Their significant contribution will definitely help reduce the government’s burden in these difficult times. It is also a sign of solidarity among the members of the association to stand firmly behind the government’s leadership.
“To ensure prompt and efficient delivery of assistance to the target groups, the items will be distributed by MPOA and Margma to MoH and agencies under the ministry,” Mohd Khairuddin said.