Minister: Sarawak needs at least RM3b for food security goal

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, Nov 28 — The state Ministry of Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development needs at least RM3 billion in allocations to achieve the target of 60 per cent of rice self-sufficiency level (SSL) by 2030, Datuk Seri Stephen Rundie Utom said today.

The minister said the allocation would be for the development of new areas for padi cultivation and upgrading of the dilapidated farm infrastructure in the existing drainage and irrigation (DID) schemes.

He said the ministry has identified 30 existing DID schemes with an estimated total hectarage of more than 10,000 hectares.

“In certain areas, these schemes were developed in the 1970s and currently have been either totally or partially abandoned and some are cultivated with other crops such as oil palm,” he said in his winding up speech in the state assembly here.

He said his ministry proposed to gazette areas solely for padi cultivation that covers some of the existing DID schemes and newly identified areas.

He said Sarawak produced 85,700 metric tonnes of rice representing 5.1 per cent of the national total, last year.

“The 85,700 metric tonnes are equivalent to 34 per cent of the state rice self-sufficiency level,” he said.

He said that the state imported 164,621 metric tonnes valued at RM362 million to meet the shortfall.

“The high import of rice is largely due to the sharp reduction in padi production as a result of the decrease in the total hectarage of padi cultivation areas,” he said.

He said that in the last seven years, the total hectarage of padi planting areas has decreased by 37 per cent, from 124,111 hectares in 2016 to 78,000 hectares in 2022.

Rundie said the decrease was due to the reduction in the number of active padi planters from 165,159 in 2016 to about 70,881 in 2022, the deteriorating condition of farm infrastructure in majority of the existing padi schemes, and the stiff competition for land by other lucrative crops.

He said his ministry has taken intervention measures to increase local rice production towards ensuring a satisfactory level of food security.

He added the measures include giving greater emphasis to develop wet padi farming in the low-lying land, mostly in the coastal areas by building farm infrastructure to ensure higher yield and to sustain these areas for productive padi cultivation.

He also said the state Agriculture Department is embarking on a project to develop a designated area for quality padi seed production centre in Stumbin within the Sri Aman Division.

He said the department is currently planting quality foundation seed, namely MR315, in the designated area, adding that it is scheduled to be harvested in January 2024 and will be distributed to around 520 farmers who are willing to plant the modern padi variety for the main planting season in September 2024.