Agricultural groups demand tabling of white paper

Mohd Farhan Darwis

Grains and cereals made up the bulk of Malaysia’s food imports at RM7.09 billion. – EPA pic, May 28, 2019.

THE future of Malaysia’s agricultural sector remains bleak if the government refuses to budge from outdated ways and methods that have failed, said agricultural groups.

A lose grouping of activists have urged the government to come up with a report card on the state of the agricultural sector to identify weaknesses, instead of just continuing with old methods and projects which are not fruitful.

For starters, Putrajaya should table a white paper on the agricultural sector to avoid previous mistakes.

“We need a white paper to solve this agricultural crisis. Release a report card. What has happened to all the money we have spent? This is just the first step,” the group’s spokesman Jes Izman Izaidin told The Malaysian Insight.

He was referring to the millions shelled out by former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration on various programmes, including the failed National Feedlot Corporation (NFC).

Industry coalition Paddy Rescue chairman Fitri Amir Muhammad said the white paper should include a look into the supply chain of the padi and rice industry.

“We have done a working paper on the problems related to padi and rice. This has been presented to the ministry,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

Fitri said sellers are benefiting from the subsidies meant for farmers. This, he said, was an area which warrants immediate attention by the government.

“We have to see whether the subsidies given by the government is useful for farmers or if there are discrepancies.”

Subsidies directed at farmers are benefiting middlemen, say agricultural activists demanding reforms in the sector. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 28, 2019.

Former finance minister Daim Zainuddin recently said modern agriculture is a booming sector, into which Malaysians should tap.

The chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons pleaded wtih young adults to consider ways of using technology to boost the sector, similar to agricultural powerhouses, such as China, Japan and Taiwan.

Industrial Revolution 4.0 in agriculture

Jes and his group, comprising farmers, data analysts and entrepreneurs, have proposed the setting up of a database to monitor the supply chain of agricultural products, from the farm to the market.

Monitoring the supply chain flow would allow the government to control prices and avoid price manipulation by middlemen, he said.

Jes and his group have forwarded a proposal to Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based industry on revolutionising the agricultural sector in line with the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0).

“The ministry said they have developed big data solutions. What about the supply chain and the godown? These are the areas where we can share our expertise on.”

With this method, he said the quality of food produced could be ensured.

“Is it too idealistic? Yes, but it is also realistic, especially with all the data we have.”

Food imports increased by 3.5% in 2018 compared with the previous year, according to data provided by the ministry.

Grains and cereals made up the bulk of the imports – at RM7.09 billion.

According to the statistics, Malaysia’s food imports stood at RM50.1 billion while exports amounted to RM31.5billion.

The ministry said the import of food products is necessary to mitigate the shortage of local produce and to fulfil the demand in the country, especially for products which are not economical to produce. – May 28, 2019.

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