20.07.2020 (www.freemalaysiatoday.com) - KUALA LUMPUR: The plantation industries and commodities ministry is coming up with strategic solutions to rid the country of allegations regarding labour in the palm oil and rubber industries, deputy minister Willie Anak Mongin says.
Adding that Malaysia does not condone forced labour, he said this was a delicate issue that would require the cooperation of various ministries and agencies.
“We are doing our part to come up with solutions, and we will make continuous efforts to expel these allegations and eradicate the labour issues plaguing the commodity sector,” he said in a special address at Invest Malaysia 2020 – Virtual Series 2.
The palm oil and rubber industries were recently subject to a number of punitive actions, especially from the US, over allegations concerning labour issues.
NGO Liberty Shared filed a petition with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on April 20 for a prohibition of imports of palm oil and palm-based products produced by Sime Darby Plantation.
Sime Darby Plantation, one of the leading government-linked companies in Malaysia’s palm oil plantation sector, operates in accordance to the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Principles 3 and 4 in the MSPO scheme state the need to comply with relevant laws and regulations pertaining to labour protection.
“In this regard, the ministry has reminded all operators in the oil palm industry to continuously adhere to good labour practices in oil palm plantation operations,” Mongin said.
As for the rubber sector, he said the commodity was also embroiled in the issue of labour exploitation with a withhold release order (WRO) imposed by the CBP on disposable rubber gloves produced by WRP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd on Sept 30, 2019.
The WRO was withdrawn on March 23 due to the urgent need for rubber gloves following the Covid-19 outbreak.
Top Glove Sdn Bhd and TG Medical Sdn Bhd were also slapped with WROs on July 15 over allegations of forced labour in production.
They are currently engaging with the consultant who handled WRP Asia Pacific’s case.
The agricommodity plantation sector comprises six commodities: palm oil, rubber, timber, cocoa, pepper and kenaf.
Last year, it contributed 6.1% to gross domestic product, remaining one of the largest net exporters together with the electrical and electronic and oil and gas sectors.
Palm oil, rubber and timber also contributed to 94.18% of total commodity export earnings in 2019. The top three major export destinations for agricommodity products were the EU, China and the US.