Agriculture ministry to reform ruminant, rice and fisheries sectors

Ministry is developing a programme to increase the rice field size for each individual farmer

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By BERNAMA

The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MoA) will focus on strategies that will reform and modernise the country’s ruminant, rice and fisheries sectors.

Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub said the ministry has revitalisation plans for these sectors and are currently being considered to be a part of the revised National Agro-Food Policy (NAFP).

“The modernisation of these sectors is equally important and it will be the ministry’s priorities to develop them.

“The rice and fisheries sectors are still lagging in achieving the comfortable standard of living. We will see if the plans are good enough to be included in the next NAFP,” he said at a press briefing in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

According to Salahuddin, 90% or up to 100,000 rice farmers in the country own less than 2ha of rice fields, earning RM1,000 income per month.

Thus, MoA is developing a programme to increase the rice field size for each individual farmer, as well as facilitate in the process of crop shift.

“We are undertaking measures to increase the size of field ownership for each farmer, as well as develop an exit programme for those who wish to switch to other crops,” he explained.

For the ruminant sector, Salahuddin said the ministry has about 30 pieces of land which are available to be utilised for livestock farming.

“We need to diversify our ruminant source. For example, almost 100% of our imported buffalo meat is coming from India.

“In order to increase our self-sufficient level for beef to 40% in five years’ time, which is currently at 22%, MoA will facilitate the livestock farming.

“MoA has about 72 pieces of land that can be used for farming and about half of them are still available,” he said.

On the government’s move to de-monopolise the rice industry, Salahuddin said the ministry is still waiting for feedback from the task force committee that has been tasked to review the matter.

“I have seen several proposals that will replace the single-importer model currently granted to Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) before its contract expires in 2021.

“In the meantime, we are going to introduce the ‘soft-landing’ model before we reveal a new model, which will see two or more companies collaborate with Bernas in managing the supply of rice in the country,” he said, adding that MoA is still deliberating on the selected companies.

A task force led by Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali was set up last year to look into the alleged monopoly claims in local businesses, including Bernas.

Several proposals have been submitted to the government which are currently under the review of several non-governmental organisations, industry players and the ministry. 

Known as “the Single Gatekeeper Mechanism”, Bernas inherited the policy from the government’s National Paddy and Rice Board to ensure sufficient supply and prices are capped at a low price.