KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 - Malaysia's palm oil sectorstands to lose an estimated 11.83 billion ringgit ($2.89billion) in revenue for each year that pandemic curbs restrictthe supply of workers, an industry grouping said on Monday. The world's second largest palm producer relies onforeigners for 70% of its plantation workforce, but the flow ofworkers from nations such as Indonesia and Bangladesh has driedup since border closures in the middle of March last year. "The labour-intensive plantation sector has been registeringa net outflow of foreign workers, especially over the past oneyear, as and when their employment contracts expire," thegrouping of 12 industry bodies said in a joint statement. Many workers also chose not to extend their contracts, thegrouping, which spans associations of growers, refiners andmillers, added. The shortage of workers has led to an annual loss of 17.14million tonnes of palm fruit bunches, or a reduction of 20% inyield, as well as an annual loss of 3.43 million tonnes of crudepalm oil production and 857,000 tonnes of palm kernel, it said. "The opportunity loss amounts to an estimated 11.83 billionringgit of revenue a year, and profit of 4.37 billion ringgit($1.07 billion) a year," the grouping said. Its calculation assumed prices of crude palm oil and palmkernel at 3,000 ringgit and 1,800 ringgit per tonne each, thestatement added. The pandemic curbs mean the government also faces a loss of896 million ringgit in income-tax revenue each year, it said. Tight supplies have helped drive Malaysia's benchmark crudepalm oil prices to a 10-year high of 3,903 ringgit atonne on Monday. But planters are not able to fully exploit the high price asa severe lack of harvest workers means estate production cannotbe optimised, the grouping said. National yields will fall below potential if staffing staysinsufficient by the beginning of the peak production season inJune, it warned. It appealed to the government to lift curbs on entry andrecruitment of foreign workers after Malaysia's key palmplanting state of Sarawak reopened to the migrants last week.($1=4.0880 ringgit) (Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/) REUTERS
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