CMO: Sabah allows oil palm industry to operate

Julia Chan
A worker shows oil palm fruits at a plantation in Kuala Selangor January 2, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KOTA KINABALU, April 10 — The Sabah state government has decided to allow oil palm plantations and mills to reopen during the movement control order (MCO) period under strict conditions.

A statement issued by the Chief Minister’s Office said that they have agreed to allow the industry to continue in Sabah’s east coast district provided they fulfil the conditions.

“The conditions are that there are no known positive cases of Covid-19, no Person Under Investigations (PUI) for Covid 19, no staff who has had contact with a Covid 19 patient or PUI, and they must also comply with all guidelines set by the health department.

“If any of the plantations or mills are found to have a positive case, a PUI, or close contact with either,  permission to operate will be revoked immediately,” said the statement.

The state will also review the conditions and permission from time to time.

The decision comes after the state faced pressure from the federal government, oil palm bodies and other groups to allow the industry to continue citing irrevocable economical damage and employee disbursement.

The oil palm industry in Sabah is worth some RM860 million and among the highest contributor to the state’s economy.

Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal had on March 31 ordered the mills in the districts of Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Semporna,Kunak and Kalabakan to close when it was discovered that there were several cases of coronavirus among the staff of Felda Sabahat in Lahad Datu.

The total affected area in Sabah was about 65 per cent of the total planted hectarage of 1.2 million ha and 75 per cent of total production in Sabah involving about 100,000 workers.

Among the guidelines set by the health authority in running such mills under the threat of Covid-19 was to have one appointed health and safety coordinator to coordinate and strengthen the estate’s clinic or have a screening centre for its staff.

They are to be screened for temperature at every entrance and exit and their temperatures taken and recorded. All employees should also be monitored for symptoms of the virus.

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