Sarawak moves to increase rice output, prevent shortage

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, Nov 30 — Sarawak is taking steps to increase paddy production by rehabilitating and opening up more areas for cultivation to ensure the state does not experience rice shortage, Datuk Seri Stephen Rundi Utom told the state assembly today.

The state minister of food industry, commodity and regional development said the current annual domestic production can only meet 38 per cent of the state’s requirement.

“In order to meet our rice demand, Sarawak has to import 146,000 metric tonnes of rice in 2021, valued at RM387 million,” he said in his winding-up speech.

However, Rundie said Bernas held 33,200 metric tonnes of rice as stockpile and another 20,000 metric tonnes as trading stock, which could sustain five months’ consumption based on estimated usage in the state.

“As a long-term solution, my ministry has taken major initiatives to reduce our over reliance on imported rice,” he said.

He said among those key initiatives to boost rice production include rehabilitating and upgrading of infrastructure in paddy production areas.

He said a total of about 150,000 hectares have been identified as paddy production areas, but most were either lacking farm infrastructure or in dilapidated conditions.

“Due to the poor conditions of the infrastructures in most of these areas, the farmers have either left their land idle or planted other lucrative crops such as oil palm.

“As a result, the total size of land that is currently cultivated with paddy has significantly reduced to about 83,000 hectares in 2021,” he said.

He said the state Drainage and Irrigation Department is rehabilitating Tanjung Purun Scheme and Kampung Pueh Scheme, both in Kuching Division, which cover an area of 200 hectares with a cost of RM3.8 million under the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP).

He said another project that has been approved for infrastructure upgrading by the state DID is the rehabilitation of Mid-Sadong Scheme in Samarahan Division with a cost of RM30 million involving more than 500 hectares and it is at planning stage.

“In this scheme, about 100 hectares at Kampung Lubok Punggor will be devoted for the cultivation of the specialty Biris rice variety,” he said, adding the development of this project is scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2023.

Rundie said a total of 90 hectares of existing paddy area in Lebor, Serian Division, will also be rehabilitated by the state Department of Agriculture (DoA) of which to date, 30 hectares have been developed.

He said another area at Abok, Pantu in Sri Aman Division, which covers an area of 120 hectares is also being planned for upgrading under 12MP.

Rundi said his ministry has approved 80 hectares at Kampung Mujat in Serian Division, with a cost of RM4.5 million, as among the new paddy cultivation areas.

He said another new area for large scale paddy cultivation is at Selepong-Panggil in Sri Aman Division, adding that this project will be developed by phases and will begin with an initial size of 600 hectares.

“Once completed, this project has the potential to produce double cropping of 5,400 metric tonnes of paddy annually,” he said.