KUALA LANGAT: The plantation sector has been urged not to cut down new forests for oil palm cultivation but instead to improve the use of technology to increase production and income.

Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said it was one of the three main points emphasised by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during a closed door briefing with the top management of Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (SDP) in conjunction with his working visit to the conglomerate’s operating site in Pulau Carey near here today.

Johari said plantation is one of the biggest sectors that contribute to the country’s economy and the prime minister wants to see this sector fulfill several aspects including increasing the use of technology.

“The prime minister said that we don’t want deforestation to continue, but to stay with what we have, but at the same time we want to increase the yield and one of the ways is to use technology,“ he said when met by reporters after the briefing session which lasted for over half an hour.

The briefing was also attended by Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan.

Commenting further, Johari said Anwar also emphasised that increasing the use of technology will not only increase palm oil yield but also help in the government’s efforts to reduce dependence on foreign labour.

“In this regard, the prime minister said that only work involving 3D (dirty, dangerous and difficult) use their services (foreign workers),“ he said.

Johari said the prime minister also asked the plantation sector to adopt technology produced by start-up companies to support the development of these companies.

“The prime minister also emphasised how important it is that if there are start-up companies that introduce their technology that has been successful, we want to make sure that they can sell that technology to players in the plantation industry,” he said.

Johari said players in the plantation industry should emulate SDP which has successfully developed and applied new machinery technology in the sector.

He said the use of technology applied by SDP successfully expanded the scope of work on the plantation to 12.5 hectares per worker compared to eight hectares per worker before.

He said he is also willing to consider ensuring that the Malaysian Palm Oil Board applies some of the technology used by SDP in the board’s daily operations.

“Then we will introduce it to all players in the oil palm industry for them to emulate and utilise technology used by SDP,” he said.