Monday, August 26

Mechanised padi farming to increase paddy yield

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BAU: The padi planting activity in Bario is about to go through an agriculture revolution.

PROMISING: Penghulu Philip Lakai, 68, sits in one of the harvesting machines as two other visiting delegates join in the fray. Meanwhile, (from left) farm workers were seen packing the padi seeds into gunny bags.

This year, the highly successful government introduction to mechanise padi farming scheme in the state would soon be introduced to the farming community of the northern region highlands.

The method, which introduce machineries to replace the conventional manual labour methods, had proven to be successful and results reported from those in the pilot mechanise padi farming project here revealed an increase in productivity by 10 folds.

Areas of Skuduk Jepak in Siburan, Tanjung Purun (Lundu), Lubok Nibong (Saratok) and Stumpin, Bijak and Lingga in Sri Aman have become the first batch pilot project for mechanised padi planting and the result was very positive among the farmers. All the areas managed to produce about 2.5 tonnes of padi per hectare (ha) per year.

This success had prompted the Agriculture Department along with its private sector partner, the Ceria Group to introduce the method to farmers in Bario with the hope to increase the production of its famous Bario Rice.

The group basically provided mechanise padi farming services to those who wanted to adapt to the more commercially lucrative and modernisation method.

“To date, only 140,000 padi farmers who sell their products commercially are recorded with the Agriculture Department. Of the lot, only half are involved in wet padi farming. Compared with the 2.2 million Sarawak population, this is very low.

“Sarawak, being the biggest state in the country, unfortunately is the biggest consumer of export rice. The state alone contributed to about 30 per cent and this gets worst as padi farmers and areas of padi farming are dwindling at a fast rate. With this scheme, we hope that the paddy farming industry here would develop,” said Ceria Alliance Sdn Bhd managing director Thomas Hii Tiong Kong to the media recently.

He was met during the ‘mechanised padi farming familiarisation trip’ for a delegation of nine community leaders from Bario to the project smallholder farms in Bau and Skuduk Jepak, Siburan.

He added that mechanised padi farming had brought lots of benefits as the machines would help farmers to work their field ten times faster while producing ten folds as much.

“For instant, when using manual labour, it would take about a month to harvest one hectare of padi. Where as using a harvesting machine, it would take only a day. With this, the farmers has plenty of time to do something else or do farming on a bigger scale,” explained Hii.

He also mentioned that results were as fast when it comes to rotovation and field levelling using a rotovating machine.

Touching on expenses, Hii stated that it would farmers about RM1,200 to hire labourers to work the field whereas under the Agriculture Department mechanised padi farming scheme, it would only cost RM450 to rent a harvest machine.

Ceria Agriculture Services Sdn Bhd director Patrick G Song who runs the group’s Bau padi farming facilities stated that the fully mechanised 25ha-farm only needed eight farm workers to work all year round. The farm, which planted five padi cycles in two years, managed to produce about five to six tonnes per ha annually.

Ceria Group director Dato Affandi Tahir told the media after the trip that the main objective of the scheme was to increase income of the farmers, to lessen the poverty level and to build interest among the younger generations to take up the modernised padi farming industry.

“We want to help the farmers to increase their efficiency while reducing dependability. Modern farming not only increases participation, it would increase productivity, volume and spur economic growth. By promoting this method, we believe that Sarawak would be able to reduce its dependence on imported rice in the future.

“Areas such as Bario which is already known for its organic Bario rice could further be marketed globally due to the world’s sudden niche to organic products,” he highlighted.

During the trip yesterday, all the community leaders clearly showed approval and stated their appraisal to the modern farming method. All was eager to promote the methods to the local farmers as Ceria Group would start its service in Bario from next month.

The community leaders were briefed on all the modern machines and up to date farming method by Song. There were brought to Skuduk Jepak in Siburan to see for themselves how the harvest machine had helped the padi farming community.

The group of visiting delegates were led by Rurum Kelabit Association of Sarawak’s Bario branch chairman John Tarawa.