PM: Malaysia could reap additional RM60b from modern agricultural production

Local farmers could also be taken out of poverty with the current modern procedures available for agricultural use

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By BERNAMA

THE agricultural industry is likely to reap a significant return of RM60 billion if Malaysia implements a new approach to increase agricultural production in order to reduce dependence on imported products.

Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said local farmers could also be taken out of poverty with the current modern procedures available for agricultural use.

“At present, we are importing RM60 billion worth of agricultural products, and that is how much we can make if we produce a sizeable amount of vegetables.

“In doing so, the cultivation does not need a vast land as it could be done through multilayer cropping. The production will be enough to substitute imported vegetables.

“If this method is being applied, I’m sure that farmers will no longer live in poverty,” he said at the National Paddy Convention 2019 in Kedah yesterday.

Citing Malaysia’s palm oil and rubber industries as examples, Dr Mahathir said the cultivation of these commodities would only vastly benefit the farmers if they own a great size of land.

“Malaysia is among the biggest producers of palm oil and rubber, but why are the farmers still living in poverty? Just like paddy, most of the farmers own small pieces of land and the yields are not enough to sustain a living.

“The rubber and palm oil cultivation will only benefit them if the commodities are being professionally managed by big estates,” he said.

Speaking on paddy farming, Dr Mahathir said the contribution of paddy cultivation should be maintained to protect the local food chains, as Malaysian population is expected to increase.

“Kedah is the ‘rice bowl of Malaysia’ and has contributed about 40% of the rice supply to the country. This contribution should be maintained. However, paddy farmers are among the poorest in the country. Without the government subsidy, they will continue to live in poverty.

“With the new approach that is being introduced by the government, we believe that the trained experts could contribute to the agricultural industry and help to end poverty,” he said.

Dr Mahathir added that paddy fields could yield an extensive amount if they are being cultivated in a large scale.

“Small sizes of paddy field could not be properly managed. However, with modern technologies such as drones and sustainable usage of high-grade fertilisers, I’m sure that the yield could be improved,” he said.

The PM added that the fitting land size for paddy cultivation is between 1,000ha and 2,000ha, which could be managed economically by modern machinery.

“It could be done if the owners of neighbouring lands are willing to combine their portions to achieve a larger size of paddy field, around 1,000ha to 2,000ha.

“These fields could also be managed by trained farmers using modern machineries and drones,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also said farmers could apply the intercropping method to produce a good yield throughout the year compared to the single-seasonal cropping plants.

“A portion of the cultivation field could be planted with other crops that can be harvested throughout the year, while some could be apportioned for animal farming.

“This approach could be seen as radical and may be difficult to implement by farmers as they need a trained and specialised group to do it,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also lauded agriculture entrepreneurs who leverage on durian farming following growing interest over the exotic fruit among the people from China.

“Local fruits have been giving a high return in export values. For example, the Musang King has been widely crazed by the Chinese.

“However, those who have land are not planting durian trees. It is a missed opportunity as there is not much investment needed to grow the trees.

“Even durian could end poverty if it is being planted in a large scale,” he added.