CHIEF Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman urged plantation operators to take appropriate measures to protect wildlife as many important sites for biodiversity lie close to to plantations.
"Let us all work together to find the best solutions as we move forward in the palm oil sector while keeping ourselves mindful of biodiversity conservation," he said in his speech read by Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin at the 123rd Annual Dinner of the East Malaysia Planters' Association (EMPA) on Saturday in Tawau.
Musa reminds the planters that palm oil remains a key contributor to the country's economic growth and has helped the government's effort to eradicate poverty in rural areas.
Palm oil figures strongly in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and is one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) that will spearhead Malaysia's transformation into a high-income nation by 2020.
Musa stressed that this would be achieved through the implementation of entry point projects (EPP) that will cover the entire palm oil chain - ranging from upstream productions to downstream processing and expansions.
According to Musa, the issue of sustainability has become the focus of consideration in the production of commodities in the global arena. This is especially true in the production of palm oil. Global markets, particularly markets in the European Union and the United States demand that palm oil must be sustainably produced.
Musa hoped that more oil palm growers would be mindful of sustainability in palm oil production.
"I also wish to encourage smaller estates to similarly undertake efforts under the Roundtable on Sustainable of Oil Palm (RSPO) guideline. I hope EMPA members are responsive to these sustainability requirements, and are making progress in producing certified sustainable palm oil," Musa said.
RSPO is a non-profit, market-led association that aims to promote the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards.
On the subject of mechanisation, Musa pointed out that there is an urgency in the industry to accelerate work on farm mechanisation in order to reduce the sector's dependence on foreign labour, as the supply of foreign labour may become limited in the future.
"Within this context, I strongly urge EMPA members to adopt proactive measures to meet the projected reduction of manpower, and to invest in mechanization," he said.
Musa also reminded plantation owners to pay attention on the welfare of their employees, saying that this will help attract the locals to work in plantations. (Insight Sabah)