Of Ironman and oil palm harvesting technology

Publish date: Thu, 29 Feb 2024, 07:19 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani says many people have suggested robotic solutions to harvest fresh fruit bunches (FFB), but there is no such technology capable of doing that. 

"The current robot that we have do basic tasks like holding, picking up fallen fruits and transporting them to mill, but to advance to the level of 'Ironman' flying around cutting trees, that technology does not exist," he quipped.

Speaking at Bernama TV Ruang Bicara on "Empowering Agriculture Commodities in Facing Global Challenges" on Wednesday, Johari said the industry may lose around RM20 billion to RM30 billion in value when there are no workers to harvest.

He said the concept of having a robot is correct, but a robot would likely take half an hour on one fruit bunch when humans can do the job in five minutes. 

Hence, he reiterated the importance of having adequate labours in the oil plantations. 

Johari explained that there is a shortage of 40,000 workers in the country. In economic terms, this shortage means a loss of about RM7.9 billion in exports each year.

"So, with 40,000 fewer workers, if we translate that into the value of fruits we want to harvest but can't do so on time, it's roughly RM7.9 billion. 

"That's about one tonne of fruit bunches per worker per day, multiplied by 260 days, multiplied by 40,000 workers, and that's the value we're losing," he added.

Efforts are underway to train local people to harvest oil palm fruit instead of relying on workers from other countries.

He said commodity industry players want to make sure the oil palm plantations have enough skilled workers to cover 5.7 million hectares of land.

"This training will happen through special courses called Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

"With the demand for skilled workers increasing and concerns about foreign worker availability, it is important to develop our own workforce for the future of the oil palm industry," he added.

Johari explained that the aim is to assist students who have completed their schooling but have not begun college or a job to develop skills that align with the needs of industries, even if they have not pursued university education yet.

By offering specialised training in fruit harvesting, organisers envision nurturing a cohort of professional harvesters equipped to meet the industry's demands.

"We need to make them 'professional harvesters'. Through this TVET programme, participants can potentially earn up to RM3,000 or even RM4,000," he added.


Be the first to like this. Showing 0 of 0 comments

Post a Comment