SARIKEI: Sarawak has the potential to be a major food producer through modern agricultural practices and methods, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said.
Being blessed with vast agricultural land, the state should not only be self-sufficient in food but be an exporter as well, he said when officiating at the launching ceremony of Sarikei Pineapple and Fruits Festival 2017 here yesterday.
“Based on record, Sarawak has about 12.4 million hectares of agricultural land, but as our farmers are still doing subsistence farming, only very small portion of their land are cultivated which resulted in the state having to import about RM4 billion worth of food annually,” he said, adding that with all the potential the state had, it was high time for such scenario to be reversed.
Thus, the state government aspired to turn Sarawak into a net exporter of food by 2030 and had put in several programmes to realise the aspiration, he pointed out.
Uggah, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Minister, named the land stretching from Betong to Sarikei Division as among the areas already identified to be developed into the state’s ‘Food Basket’.
He said farmers needed to embark on new technology to improve the quality of their farm produce as well as to increase their production.
“In order to become a net exporter of food, our farmers need to increase their farm acreage apart from producing quality products which are highly demanded by foreign markets,” he stressed.
On pineapple, based on statistics the state had only about 2,000 ha of pineapple farm including some 220 ha in Sarikei, he said, adding that a lot more needed to be done in order to become a net exporter of pineapples.
“Similarly, our farmers need to open up more durian farms as the about 800 ha with about 24,000 trees they have now are not even enough to meet local demand,” he pointed out.
He encouraged farmers to increase the acreage of other fruits orchard.
“We have to increase acreage of our farm by leaps and bounds in order to become net exporter of food or fruits as we supply some three billion consumers in countries like China, Japan, Korea, India, Middle-East and others,” he said.
He assured farmers of government assistance in looking for market for their products.
“For instance, the state government has planned to set up collection centres in strategic locations for fruits and other agriculture produce meant for export to foreign markets,” he said.
In his welcoming speech, Repok assemblyman Dato Sri Huang Tiong Sii said Pineapple Fest was a culmination of several district-level festivals held earlier on – Pesta Lima Bintangor, Pesta Lada Julau and Pesta Pakan.
He said the objectives of the festivals were to promote the agriculture products and activities of the respective districts apart from providing a platform for the people to meet and strengthen their relationship and promoting the various tourism attractions in the districts.
Assistant Minister of Urban Planning, Land Administration and Environment Datu Len Talif Salleh, who also spoke at the function, expressed hope that Sarikei Pineapple Fest would continue to play a pivotal role in helping to realise the aspiration to turn Sarikei into the state’s Food Basket.
Among those present were Saratok MP and Pekan Assemblyman Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom, Julau MP Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, Meradong assemblyman Datuk Ding Kuong Hiing, Meluan assemblyman Rolland Duat, Sarikei Resident Mohd Junaidi Mohidin and a representative of permanent secretary to the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, Dr Gluma Saban.