100 percent rice self- sufficiency
26,500 ha paddy plantations in pipeline: CM
If everything goes as planned, Sabah will be 100 per cent self-sufficient in rice soon. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, in disclosing this yesterday, said the Government is in the process of identifying 26,500 hectares of suitable land in Sabah for paddy cultivation. “This is part of the effort to boost our paddy production. The 26,500 ha of land is additional to the existing 50,000 ha paddy fields in the State,” he said. Speaking to the media after chairing the State Cabinet meeting at Wisma Innoprise yesterday, Musa said both the Forestry and the Land and Survey Departments have been given the task to identify suitable land for the paddy cultivation projects. “The project will be spearheaded by the Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) as they have the expertise in large scale paddy plantations development,” he said. “SLDB has the experience and has carried out similar undertaking where a hectare of land could yield about 10 tonnes. “However, we foresee that this is not an easy task because we do not have big area (for plantation) anymore; it may take some time and that is why we have put the two departments to task to find suitable land for the project,” he said. Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin said Sabah is reviewing its policy and strategy to further increase production of essential food items, particularly rice which has seen an almost three-fold increase in its price at the global market since March. Yahya, who is also the Agriculture and Food Industry Minister, said related agencies had been directed to study their existing policies and strategies on rice production to reduce dependency on imported rice. He said the current soaring prices highlighted the negative consequences of heavy dependency on imported rice and necessary action such as increasing the area for paddy planting needed to be taken to boost the State’s rice production. Increases in rice price is anticipated to continue as farmers across Asia are hoarding their crops, while rice producing countries, including the biggest exporter, Thailand, are curbing exports to safeguard their domestic supply. “When it comes to increasing food production, I believe we should not be complacent with achieving self efficiency. Increasing production to export level should be the target for all agriculture products. Only this way can we transform the agriculture sector to greater heights,” said Yahya when officiating the ‘Vanilla Crop’ course at Promenade Hotel here. The two-day course organized by Rural Development Cooperative (KPD), was attended by more than 200 participants. “Towards this, a holistic and integrated approach involving all related State and Federal agencies must be set in place,” said Yahya, adding attention should also be given to increasing the production of high- value agriculture products. He stressed that Sabah is well known for its vastly diversified natural resources and should continue to seek ways to positively exploit its rich bio-diversity to enhance the competitiveness of its agriculture sector. For instance, he said Sabah is well positioned to tap the increasing demand for herbal and medicinal products which is a multi-billion industry. “I suggest the agencies under my Ministry give more focus on research and development (R&D), especially for natural resources readily available in Sabah. This can be done through collaborative understanding with institutions such as MARDI and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) which have the resources and expertise in R&D,” added Yahya.