Sarawak budgets RM1b for Sri Aman to challenge Kedah paddy fields, aims to make Malaysia rice exporter and Bernas ‘irrelevant’

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, June 11 — The Sarawak government has set aside RM1 billion to develop 10,000 hectares in Stumbin, Lingga and Tanjung Bijat areas in Sri Aman division for paddy cultivation, Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg said today in a bid to compete with Kedah as Malaysia's rice bowl.

He said RM500 million will be allocated next year and another RM500 million for 2026.

“The allocation will be mainly for the construction of drainage and irrigation in Stumbin, Lingga and Tanjung Bijat,” he said at the opening of the Regional Conference on Agrobiodiversity Conservation and Sustainability Utilisation 2024 here.

Abang Johari later told reporters that he had requested Putrajaya for funds, through federal Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu in a meeting here early this year, to develop 10,000 hectares of paddy cultivation areas.

“I briefed him what we wanted to do with the paddy production, and then we were comparing Stumbin, Lingga and Tanjung Bijat areas with the paddy cultivation areas in Kedah.

“The areas, in terms of acreage, are more or less the same,” he said.

He said that investment in Kedah’s drainage and irrigation for paddy cultivation cost about RM1 billion, and added that the same amount would be needed in Stumbin, Lingga and Tanjung Bijat.

“As the amount was quite huge, Mat Sabu had said that he would convey the request to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. “After that, I do not know what is the progress of our request,” Abang Johari said, referring to the federal minister by his nickname.

He added that Sarawak Food Industries, Commodities and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundie has been tasked to follow up with the state’s request.

“If the federal government agrees to give RM500 million, the state government will also allocate the same amount. If it is RM1 billion, we will also give a matching allocation of RM1 billion,” the premier said.

He said the funds are meant only for Stumbin, Lingga and Tanjung Bijat areas, excluding the paddy cultivation areas in Simunjan and Lundu.

“We want to concentrate in Stumbin, Lingga and Tanjung Bijat first before we go to other areas,” he said.

He said the state ministry of food industries, commodities and regional development is looking at new technology to increase rice production.

“Our target is to produce 250,000 metric tonnes of rice a year if all the areas earmarked for paddy cultivation have been fully developed,” he said.

“If we have sufficient production of rice, Bernas will become irrelevant. Instead, we may become rice exporters,” he said, referring to Padiberas Nasional Berhad, the national rice importer and distributor.

He said the state government has certain targets to meet, but the investment is rather high, adding that it is not cheap.