Farmers to remain as landowners in consolidation plan

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

RICE farmers will remain as landowners upon the implementation of the land consolidation policy, said Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub (picture).

The proposal for land consolidation for the rice sector, according to the Direction Priorities and Strategies 2019-2020 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, will only involve the consolidation of land management without any takeover or transfer of land ownership.

Salahuddin explained the consolidation concept as a form of land management programme led by an oversight entity that will monitor activities of cultivation, harvesting and marketing of the harvest produced by farmers.

He had likened the management body to a company or a cooperative without disclosing further details.

“Agencies to lead this initiative will be identified later,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The minister was responding to a question from Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir (Pakatan Harapan-Jerlun) who queried about the rationale of the land consolidation policy.

Salahuddin said the consolidation proposal was made to ensure more efficient management of arable lands in Malaysia and create economies of scale for paddy farmers, who are among the lowest income groups in the country.

Salahuddin further emphasised that the main success factor for land consolidation is the acceptance of the farmers and landlords involved.

“The proposed land consolidation is not only with a desire to increase productivity of revenue, but more importantly, the benefit of which is to be achieved by the landlords and farmers involved, as well as the interests of the government itself,” he added.

Most farmers own small plots of paddy fields, which makes it difficult to increase productivity and generate income for the farmers.

This also makes it expensive and challenging for the government to provide targeted aid to help the farmers manage their farms better.

“Currently, some of the existing programs under the Agricultural Driven Project, such as the Entry Point Project which will expire in 2020, can be taken as the basis for the implementation of this land consolidation concept,” he said.

Salahuddin said the government is also looking at other land consolidation models that have been implemented before deciding on the best way to implement the policy.

Among the considerations that are taken into account are the optimum size of appropriate area; supply and management distribution issues; control of diseases; the use of appropriate machinery and mechanisation; land ownership aspects; industry readiness; and acceptance of farmers and landowners.

Salahuddin said the consolidation model would provide avenues for farmers to benefit from strategic cooperation, direct payments in the form of rental or lease, profit sharing and other similar returns that are still being studied.

“We will engage with farmers and landowners to educate them on implementation of this model,” he said.

Salahuddin said the appropriate land area for consolidation is within 100ha to 500ha based on the initial information, as a wider coverage area may affect the implementation’s effectiveness.

“Issues such as disease attack, paddy seed supply, agricultural inputs, and the use of mechanisation and automation in a wide area that would make it difficult for precision farming, has to be emphasised in ensuring paddy cultivation according to good agricultural practice,” he added.