January 22, 2019 ( Zanariah Abd Mutalib, New Straits Times Online )
PUTRAJAYA: Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry targets to increase 75 per cent of local rice production from the current 70 per cent in a few years’ time to reduce the dependency on imported rice.
Its minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said 30 per cent or 740,000 tonnes of rice were imported last year with a cost of RM1.18 million.
“The ministry has agreed to increase local rice production to 75 per cent, probably in three or four years to come.
“We will increase the use of technology to do ‘profiling’ and the usage of suitable fertiliser. That is what we are going to focus on,” he said during a press conference after delivering 2019 New Year’s message to his staff here today.
Last Sunday, NSTP reported that currently, the country only produces only about two million tonnes of rice while the remaining one tonne are imported rice.
Former Muda Agricultural Development Authority (MADA) Datuk Othman Aziz said from the aspect of food security, it is a dangerous situation if suddenly the rice producing countries stop the sale of rice or increase the price.
Besides that, the population growth increases every year and forces paddy fields to be developed especially in urban areas, causing areas designated for paddy plantation to shrink.
Responding on the paddy fields, Salahuddin said he has brought the issue to the National Land Council.
“It is not the task for the ministry alone to make sure the fields remain. Land is the state’s right and we can only suggest ideas.
“We have raised this issue so that the state will take initiatives to gazette paddy fields because if not, it will keep getting smaller.
“If the state wants to provide new land for paddy plantations, we very much welcome it,” he added.
Meanwhile, Salahuddin said the ministry is actively involved in legitimisation process to make sure that only qualified farmers, breeders and fishermen would receive incentives provided by the government.
For example, he said there were fishermen who registered themselves and their children to receive incentives, but their children already have another job.
“We are worried if we provide benefits to those who don’t qualify. Therefore, legitimisation process will be continuously carried out. We are confident that this year, the incentives will only be given to the targeted groups,” he added.
Meanwhile, Salahuddin, in his speech, outlined a five-way forward for the ministry this year; to modernise and increase agriculture produce, intensify involvement in private investment and make agriculture a strong source of income.
Apart from that, agriculture ecosystem must be improved, and department and agency organisational structure must be strengthened.