KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Bernama) -- Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) said it has successfully mechanised several tasks across its Malaysian plantation operations and expects to eliminate the need for manual workers in all non-harvesting activities by the end of 2023.
Group managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha said SDP expects to reduce the number of plantation workers by 55 per cent by the end of 2023 and by the end of 2024, improve its land-to-man ratio to 1:17.5 or one worker for every 17.5 hectares (ha).
The current industry average is one worker for every eight ha. As dependence on manual labour decreases, SDP is also expected to improve productivity.
During the annual Oils and Fats International Conference this week, Mohamad Helmy unveiled seven new initiatives, several of which are industry firsts that the company had developed internally or co-developed with start-ups and technology providers.
Several of these initiatives have already been implemented across the group’s Malaysian operations, while others are either in the prototype or concept stage.
The group said through advanced mechanisation, automation and digitalisation of its operations, SDP is making work in plantations more sophisticated and less laborious, which will also go a long way towards attracting a more skilled Malaysian workforce to the industry.
“SDP aims to have a 100 per cent local workforce for its Malaysian plantation operations by the end of 2027,” it said in a statement.
In SDP’s operations in Malaysia, drones have replaced over 100 workers who, historically, had carried backpacks of chemicals to spray young seedlings in nurseries.
The palm oil industry is typically highly labour-intensive.
Prior to the pandemic, 80 to 85 per cent of the plantation operations’ workforce were migrant workers, though, at SDP, foreign workers accounted for about 75 per cent of the plantation workforce.
With more technology companies, institutions, and organisations, both local and abroad, that are already or will be working in this space, the plantation group believes there will be more opportunities for locals to become a part of this exciting transformation and contribute to the future of the Malaysian palm oil industry.
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