Without merging, smallholders may only make money when the prices of commodities are high, but will suffer losses if the prices fall
by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by ARIF KARTONO
SMALLHOLDERS, especially from rubber and oil palm plantations should merge and combine their land to become more profitable, said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (centre).
Dr Mahathir said without the merger, smallholders may only make money when the prices of commodities are high, but they will suffer losses if the prices fall.
“I think this is the way to go, if you continue with your small land, you can never make any profit.
“So, if all the smallholders merge their farms and work together, they could produce a lot of other things as well,” he told reporters at the National Association of Smallholders Malaysia bi-annual general meeting in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur (KL), yesterday.
“In order to have large farms, we need to combine these small farms so that they can be managed as a large field. Some of the paddy farmers have responded to this proposal,” Dr Mahathir added.
“When the field is large, replanting can be done in a small area of real estate listings. This way, the replanting does not involve the whole area.
“Small-scale farming only works for the cultivation of vegetables or fruits. So, it is important that such plantations be managed by trained professionals who know estate management techniques,” he explained.
Dr Mahathir further said if 20 people combine their smallholdings, they can become directors and appoint a third-party director to supervise the progress of their plantation.
According to the PM, by combining lands, the smallholders’ dependency from the government to borrow money for replanting works could be reduced as well.
Thus, when the smallholders can stand on their own feet, they will be able to earn equally like those in urban areas.
“This is the government’s hope. We hope this will help reduce the income gaps between urban and rural areas.
“At the same time, small farmers should be open to modern farming that involves innovative techniques, as well as mixed farming and also terrace farming,” he said.
Earlier in his speech, the PM said Malaysia imports some RM60 billion worth of produce, adding that many more commodities could be planted through innovative means.
On another related matter, Dr Mahathir said the government will consider smallholders’ call to return subsidies instead of providing them with loans.
“We can consider and see what we can do. But this will depend on our ability and we would act accordingly,” he said.
At the general assembly yesterday, the National Smallholders Farming Association asked the PM to reinstate the previous subsidy for replanting crops.
Its president Datuk Aliasak Ambia said in his speech that the government’s new policy has been a burden on most farmers’ cashflow.
The Pakatan Harapan administration had removed the cash aid policy earlier this year and replaced it with loans to help smallholders during low seasons and lessen their reliance on government cash handouts.