Tuesday, August 9

Rice self-sufficiency crucial


LOCAL SPECIALTY: Jabu (centre) accompanied by Entrie checking the rice varieties displayed at the exhibition in conjunction with the conference.

KUCHING: The unpredictable weather pattern caused by global warming which disrupts rice production in major rice producing countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand makes it crucial for Sarawak to strive for rice self-sufficiency, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu.

Jabu, who is also Agriculture Modernisation Minister, said although the state targeted a 65 per cent rice self-sufficiency level it was only 52 per cent self sufficient now. To make up for the shortfall the state imports rice from Vietnam (40 pct), Thailand (38 pct) and the rest from India and others.

Speaking at the launch of the Sarawak Rice Conference (Saricon) 2011 here yesterday, Jabu said there were more than 100 varieties of rice grown and sold in the state. The most popular varieties sold in the local markets are Bario, Biris, Bajong, Bali, Mamut, Selasih, Katek Merah, Lemak and Kenawit.

He revealed that three rice varieties, namely Bario rice, Sarawak Beras Bajong and Sarawak Beras Biris had been granted the Geographical Indications (GI) by the Malaysian Intellectual Property Organisation (MyIPO).

Bario rice is a unique fine grain rice with smooth glossy texture grown in the cool mountains of the Kelabit highlands while Beras Biris, a fragrant rice with a smooth and glossy texture is cultivated in Simunjan and Samarahan areas and Beras Bajong, an aromatic purple coloured rice with distinctive taste and texture, is mainly planted by traditional paddy farmers at Lubok Nibong, Saratok.

He said that GI protection will provide entrepreneurs and consumers the assurance of authenticity and consistent product quality.

Jabu urged the various relevant agencies to get at least three more rice varieties to be granted with GI within the next three years.

On the conference, he said it was indeed timely following the introduction of the Government Economic Transformation Programme (GETP) and the inclusion of paddy as one of the Entry Point Projects (EPPs) under the Agriculture National Economic Key Area (NKEA).

He threw a challenge to the participants to look beyond the conference to enable the state further improve its rice self sufficiency level.

Among those present at the ceremony yesterday were Assistant Agriculture Modernisation (Farmers’ Organisations) Datuk Sylvester Entrie Muran and Assistant Agriculture Modernisation (Research and Marketing) Datuk Mong Dagang.