Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran has abandoned the idea of bringing in African workers to serve the plantation sector.
Kulasegaran claimed his statement about bringing in foreign workers from another continent was misconstrued and taken out of context.
The minister said he floated the idea after hearing complaints from the plantation sector players during a meeting in Cameron Highlands.
He said they had complained that foreign workers from Bangladesh and Southeast Asia were no longer interested to work in Malaysia's oil palm estates, thus resulting in some RM10 billion a year in losses from unharvested fruits due to a lack of workers.
This is because palm fruits must be harvested within 21 days of their fruiting or they would be unsuitable for processing.
"The plantation owners suggested that to meet the shortfall in labour, the government consider employing workers from Africa, particularly from countries in which Malaysia is heavily invested in the oil and gas sector, and in plantation agriculture.
"This seemed an understandable suggestion given the reasons for the labour shortfall in estates in Malaysia and the fact that we have invested considerably in Africa.
"It was in this context that at the town hall session, I floated the idea that government may have to look to Africa to shore up the labour shortfall in plantation agriculture in Malaysia," Kulasegaran said.
He added that the proposal would also require cabinet approval, which has yet to take place.
"As the prime minister has said there is no necessity to bring in workers from Africa, thus, I will inform the plantation owners the whole suggestion of bringing in foreign workers to Malaysia would be dropped," he said.