Ensuring sufficient food supply in the country

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will review its self-sufficiency level (SSL) to ensure sufficient food supply amid concerns that climate change could cause rice shortage in the future, the Dewan Rakyat was told yesterday.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar said currently the National Economic Council had fixed the SSL rate for rice production to be at 70 per cent for the next 10 years, where all shortage would be met through import.

“Based on the existing rate, the government has achieved the target last year by recording 71.4 per cent in SSL,” he said in reply to Datuk Taib Azamudden Md Taib (PAS-Baling) on the government’s efforts to ensure that the country could be self-sufficient in rice production by 2015.

To achieve the objective, Noh said the government had also lined-up several programmes to improve rice and paddy cultivation chain, thus reducing the country’s dependency on imported rice.

“The government will also increase production in paddy cultivation areas, especially by improving the infrastructure facilities, using quality input and better agriculture technology, and increasing production by planting twice a year or up to five times in two years,” he said.

Noh said the centralised management approach practised by Muda Agriculture Development Authority, Kemubu Agriculture Development Authority and Integrated Agriculture Development Authority would also encourage a more effective blend of soil, water and fertiliser, use of technology and good agricultural practice.

He said the government would also redevelop idle land and, at the same time, expand the size of the paddy cultivation areas.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters at parliament lobby, Noh said a paddy estate pioneer project would be implemented at the Muda Agriculture Development Authority area in Kedah to narrow the gap between the rice production and the demand in the country.

He said the project, on 5,000ha of paddy field, would be able to produce up to eight tonnes of rice per hectare in 2020 from four tonnes currently.

The farmers’ average income would also increase to RM2,800 from RM1,400 currently, he said.

Speaking at another news conference prior to chairing the meeting of state executive councillors in charge of agriculture, Noh said some 15,000ha of idle land nationwide would be developed, among them, to be planted with fragrant and basmati rice.

“We were told the reason for the land to be idle was due to irrigation problem.

“So we recently allocated RM6 million to provide a modern irrigation system in these areas,” he said, adding that the project would be implemented by government-linked companies. — Bernama

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