Govt aims more than 90,000 paddy farmers on large-scale farming

This is a grand scheme to push forward the rice cultivation in the country and ultimately increase the growers’ income

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH & RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE government targets to include up to 96,000 local paddy growers in the new consolidation policy to develop Malaysia’s large-scale farming for the crop.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub (picture) said the target to enlist 30% of the 322,000 total farmers could be achieved in five years.

“The consolidated lands could be managed by Area Farmers Organisation (PPK) or private companies.

“For that scale of consolidation, we need ample time to get the farmers onboard with the plan.

“This is our grand scheme to push forward the rice cultivation in the country and ultimately, increase the growers’ income. We want to bring them out of the bottom 40% (B40) income status,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in an exclusive interview recently.

Salahuddin said the concession to manage the proposed consolidated lands could take between five and 10 years, while the farmers will have profits based on their land size.

“We are considering the management tenure to be between five and 10 years. Each plot could be expanded between 10ha and 50ha for small-sized farmers while private companies could manage land plots between 100ha and 1,000ha.

“Currently, most farmers only own one to two ha of land. This is why the average yield for paddy is only at four metric tonnes (MT) per ha,” he explained.

Salahuddin added that under the policy, the farmers could be paid monthly based on their land yields. According to the minister, the consolidated policy, which is expected to be finalised by year-end, would enable the national paddy yield to increase from six MT to eight MT per ha annually.

“When yield has met with our national target, the paddy growers are encouraged to apply for loans to expand their land,” he said, adding that the policy is part of the strategies to increase the country’s rice self-sufficient level from 70% to 75% within five years.

It is also expected to shift the paddy sector from being heavily-subsidised to the implementation of targeted subsidy while addressing the issue of leakages along the chain at the same time.

“The scenario today is, old paddy farmers who do not work on their land are still receiving the subsidies provided by the government.

“There are also cases where some farmers sell their fertilisers to get easy return. Hence, we are going to do a ‘whitening’ exercise to identify the roots of this problem and rectify it,” he said.

For 2019, the ministry has allocated up RM1.2 billion for rice-farming subsidy, about 40% decreased from last year’s total subsidy of RM2 billion.

According to the ministry’s Direction Priorities and Strategies 2019-2020 unveiled in February, the proposal will only involve any takeover or transfer of the land ownership.

Salahuddin said the Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority in Kelantan and Muda Agricultural Development Authority in Kedah have begun to draw up an action plan for the proposed consolidation plan.

He added that new paddy varieties developed by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Putra Malaysia have proven to produce higher yield and expected to contribute in increasing the country’s paddy sufficiency.

Bernama reported yesterday that the government will announce a new policy on smart farming in the near future.

Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the adoption new technology including robotics would further boost the sector.

“The ministry is now in talks with several financial institutions regarding funding with minimal interest for smallholders involved in smart farming.

“But we need the people to be trained for this sector,” he was quoted as saying after taking part in the World Stats Congress 2019 run for the 5km category at Dataran Merdeka.