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Monday, April 21, 2008

Sarawak the nation’s ninth rice bowl

Sarawak will be turned into Malaysia’s ninth rice bowl in an effort to increase rice production under the nation’s Food Security Strategy (FSS).

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said he would be going to Sarawak on Saturday to discuss with the relevant quarters there the plan, aimed at ensuring adequate supply of rice at all times.

He would also look at the land and other needs of the farmers there, he said after visiting a 46ha honey orange cultivation project involving 38 participants.

“Sarawak has good potential as the population is not big while there is a lot of land for agriculture compared with the peninsula,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government will be tabling the FSS as a short-term and long-term effort to ensure sufficient supply of food at all times.

Mustapa recently had said that the FSS which would involve several ministries was now in the final stage of planning and would be submitted to the cabinet soon.

The FSS is aimed at avoiding not only a rice shortage crisis but also of other essential items like sugar, flour, cooking oil and livestock meat.

Mustapa said his ministry would also look into the kind of infrastructural assistance needed, including irrigation canals, and also at the annual subsidies for rice production like on fertilisers, pesticides and machinery.

He said his ministry had also completed the FSS report, which would be presented to the Cabinet next week.

According to him, the FSS encompasses the important crops to be focused on by the government, cost implications which include for subsidies and infrastructure, and the methodology for the policy implementation to ensure the success of the plan.

He also announced that Jeli district would be made a model for an agriculture special project in the effort to popularise it as a food supply centre for Kelantan and the country.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said Jeli had plenty of land suitable for crops.

As such, a one-stop centre would be established in Jeli to hold courses on crop cultivation and motivation as well as to look into the problems faced by farmers.

He also said that the ministry would develop idle land in a move to exploit the potential fertility of arable land in Jeli. The honey lemon orchard is an example of crop cultivated on idle land.

Mustapa said the farmers involved in the honey lemon project were expected to reap an income of RM2,000 per tonne of honey lemon when the fruits were ready for harvest next year.

Jeli has been earmarked as an agriculture centre under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) programme.

— Bernama

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