Palm Oil Output at Risk as Virus Lockdown Worsens Labor Shortage

A resurgence of Covid-19 infections in No. 2 palm oil grower Malaysia is set to exacerbate a labor shortage and curb production of the world’s most-consumed cooking oil.

The Southeast Asian country, which announced it will extend the first phase of its national lockdown to the end of June, has shuttered non-essential industries and is expected to prolong a freeze on the recruitment of foreign workers as it battles with a third wave of the pandemic.

“The crux of the issue is the labor shortage. We have lost about 20% to 30% of our potential production because of this,” according to Nageeb Wahab, chief executive at the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, a growers’ group that represents 40% of palm plantations by area.

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