(The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) manpower division chief)

The outbreak of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has caused disruptions to many things. Various efforts have been pursued to solve the problems. But apparently some of them ended up generating new problems.

The latest of such case was caused by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after advising people, through its online info-graphic flyer, not to consume foods that contained saturated fats,  such as palm oil and coconut oil, while advising them to consume a number of food stuffs to help fight the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

After being criticized by a number of organizations in Indonesia and Malaysia, the WHO then corrected the info-graphic flyer. We appreciate the correction, but we also regret it. While it is already settled now, it may repeat in the future if there is no effort to prevent it from recurring.

It is a different case with the International Labor Organization (ILO). Both the WHO and ILO are under the United Nations (UN). But each of them has different understanding on the palm oil. During the outbreak of Covid-19,  ILO has become more active in protecting the palm oil. ILO publication dated on 7 April 2020 reported the impact of Covid-19 in a number of business sectors. It said that the impacts to the sectors of agriculture, forestry and fishery are categorized at the level of “low – medium”. In fact, the palm oil industry, as one of the agricultural sub-sectors in Indonesia, is still proceeding under a relatively normal condition, indicating its resilience amid the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

As an international labor organization, ILO has been active in publishing guidelines to support businesses and workers. Indonesia’s palm oil industry employs at least 16 million people, and two million of them are smallholders. The palm oil is very important for ILO, and even so for Indonesia. During Covid-19 pandemic in January-Pebruary 2020, Indonesia’s palm oil industry managed to generate foreign exchange at US$3.5 billion (sawitindonesia.com), and free from layoffs and also from the Covid19.

Palm Oil Project

ILO started its involvement in Indonesia’s palm oil sector since 2015 through a diagnostic study, which helped the institution in designing a “Palm Oil Project”. It stated that there are 6 deficits regarding the issue of palm oil manpower in Indonesia. The 6 deficits are worker’s status, social dialog, wage, occupational safety and health (K3), child labor and government supervision.

In implementing its projects, the ILO has forged a cooperation with the Indonesian Palm oil Association (Gapki) as the representative of business players, and a number of labor unions, including the Indonesian Palm Oil Labor Unions Network (JAPBUSI), which groups almost two million palm oil workers.

Since 2015, the palm oil project has been implemented with two major themes, namely promotion and implementation of decent work. During the Covid-19 pandemic, GAPKI, JAPBUSI and ILO have been active to secure the palm oil operation from the impact of the pandemic. The Covid-19 protocol which is designed by GAPKI for its members has been well implemented among the stakeholders and has played the key role in maintaining the normal operation of palm oil industry.

Need for support

The fight against the Covid-19 is still proceeding, while other potential problems, at home and abroad, are still lurking and readily disrupting the palm oil industry in the future. The potential problems are mainly concerned with the negative campaigns and discriminatory actions by certain foreign countries and organizations. Under such condition, Indonesia should keep strengthening the palm oil industry by taking the right policies and steps to deal with any problem.

There is no denying that the palm oil industry has a very significant contribution to Indonesian economy and society. It contributes the largest foreign exchange, exceeding the contribution of tourism industry. Despite being managed by a ministry, the tourism sector has fallen victim to the Covid-19.

Under current condition, the palm oil industry needs a tough and effective organization, which is capable of making a breakthrough, solving the problems of smallholders, leading the charge against the black campaigns, resolving the overlapping and tangled regulations. By having an institution with an appropriate authority, we hope the palm oil industry can survive any crisis and can be growing robustly during normal condition. Hopefully.

Source: Nasionalisme.co