by FAREZZA HANUM RASHID
MALAYSIA’S population is projected to increase to more than 45 million by 2050 hence, rising food demand and consumption.
Potential threats such as food insecurity pose the question of, is the country ready?
Food security is very important especially when it comes to a growing population.
In Malaysia, various policies have been implemented by the government through the Agriculture and Food Industry Ministry (Mafi) to guarantee food supply is always sufficient such as the National Agricultural Policy and the National Agrofood Policy, where among the focus is rice production.
Rice farming plays a key role in ensuring the country’s food supply.
However, various problems are bogging down this sector’s efforts in performing its functions.
Dr Norsida Man (picture) from the Department of Agriculture Technology Faculty of Agriculture at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) said among these problems include lesser cultivation area; fewer farmers; less dynamic infrastructure and facilities; higher input costs such as fertiliser and seeds; weather and climate changes; as well as lack of exposure to the latest technology.
She added that the strengthening of the entire supply chain should be made the main agenda to improve the capacity of the country’s rice industry.
“Government and non-government agencies like the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada), Kemubu Agricultural Development Authority (Kada) and Integrated Agricultural Development Areas (IADAs) must work together, especially in agricultural infrastructure management, strengthening support services and
farm management, providing consultation, and strengthening service agencies,” she said in a statement recently.
Meanwhile, active involvement of private companies such as Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas), National Farmers Organisation (Nafas), and FGV Holdings Berhad are seen as pioneers of the innovation for paddy and rice and drive the government’s aspirations in empowering sustainability objectives.
Bernas, for example, after taking over the role of the National Paddy and Rice Board more than two decades ago, has the responsibility of guaranteeing the country’s food security.
Among the mandates given to it is to manage and maintain the country’s rice stockpile so that it will be readily available in the event of undesirable situations or disasters.
Malaysia imports approximately 30% of its rice supply.
“From a positive point of view, this guarantees adequate rice supply in the event of a disruption.
“It is Bernas’ responsibility to balance the supply of rice through import as agreed with the government,” Norsida said.
Additionally, Bernas, FGV and Nafas are now actively expanding large-scale rice cultivation areas under the Large-Scale Smart Paddy Field (Smart SBB) programme.
This programme is one of the government’s initiatives to increase rice farmers’ income, by coordinating farm management systems to achieve economies of scale.
The implementation of Smart SBB is also in line with Mafi’s goal to increase the country’s rice self-sufficiency level (SSL) by 75%.
Malaysia’s food security is not only focused on the production of rice, but also, other food sources such as chicken, eggs, and meat, among others.
However, there is a critical issue in the livestock industry whereby the price of animal feeds has spiked.
To overcome the problem, Bernas and FGV Integrated Farming have recently launched high quality livestock feed products under the Alma brand.
The Alma product is a new formulation of chicken feed which uses by-products from rice and paddy production such as bran and rice husk that are highly nutritious.
“This strategic collaboration proves their commitment in optimising the use of resources, strengthening the value of agro-food products for the domestic market as well as the national food security.
“In terms of research and development (R&D), there are continuous efforts to produce agricultural inputs such as quality seeds and fertilisers,” Norsida noted.
To date, various initiatives have been carried out between Mafi, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti), Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), higher education institutes and related agencies. The production of the IS21 rice seed variety last year has agronomic characteristics which are much needed by the country’s rice industry.
IS21 is said to be able to help increase rice productivity, resistant to the canker disease as well as unpredictable weather such as droughts and floods.
Hence, it has the potential to help with the socioeconomics of rice farmers.
“In conclusion, the agricultural sector, especially the paddy and rice industry, plays an important role in overcoming food security issues as well as increasing the SSL level.
“Strategic partnership between government and private parties will also ensure that the National Agro-Food Policy 2.0 is achieved,” Norsida concluded.