KUCHING: The Department of Agriculture through its Soil Management Branch has been requested to identify 100,000 hectares of suitable land each for planting durian, coconut, pineapple and banana by 2030.
With the Sarawak Government having approved an allocation of RM797 million for strengthening agriculture development next year, there is a need for the state government to look for new plots of land to cultivate more crops, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also Minister of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development.
His text of speech was read by Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Ismail when representing Uggah at the launching of 2019 Research Officers’ Progress Meeting at a local hotel yesterday.
Referring to the current scenario on Sarawak’s agriculture sector, Uggah said his ministry is currently focussing on two strategic goals in the state’s agriculture transformation journey.
“The first goal is to make Sarawak a net exporter of agro-food by year 2030, and in the process, to strengthen our food security position while the second goal is to significantly raise rural incomes in order to bridge the present rural-urban income gap,” he pointed out.
Uggah informed that the agriculture sector contributed only about 14 per cent to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2018 and of that figure, less than two per cent was contributed by food crops.
As the state recorded a food trade deficit of about RM3.8 billion in 2018, he anticipated the figure to increase to about RM6.0 billion in 2030 if the state still did business as usual.
However, he said the state’s agriculture sector future looked great, given that Sarawak has rich biodiversity, large water bodies, huge marine resources and vast tracts of arable land.
“For your information, we have about two million hectares of land with agricultural potential, 150,000 hectares of water bodies and 1.7 million hectares of peat soil, which are yet to be exploited.
“Therefore, there are huge potentials for the agriculture sector in Sarawak to expand and flourish,” he said.
He also said with the current need to accelerate modernisation and commercialisation of the agriculture sector in Sarawak, a centralised research centre is no longer able to meet the needs to effectively transfer technologies generated and to provide technical advisory services to the farming communities scattered throughout the state.
This is because each region has its unique agro-climatic conditions that are more suitable for certain crops, he added.
In this respect, he said the state government wants the Department of Agriculture to speed up the establishment of regional research centres for the northern, central and southern regions.
“The immediate plan is to elevate the existing Kabuloh Agriculture Research Station in Bekenu, Miri into Northern Regional Research Centre to serve the northern region, including the highlands,” Uggah pointed out.
In order for Sarawak to achieve a modern and commercialised agriculture sector, it is inevitable and crucial for the researchers of the Department of Agriculture to conduct their research and development activities along the supply and value chain utilising information and communications technology apart from digital technology, he stressed.
He said this meant that research officers need to ensure that their research and development programmes and projects are in line with the aim of the state government to leapfrog into Industrial Revolution 4.0 in agriculture.
Meanwhile, a book titled ‘Picture Guidebook of Fruit Pests in Sarawak’ (Buku Panduan Begambar Perosak Buah-buahan di Sarawak) was launched by Dr Abdul Rahman during the event.
Also present during the event were state Department of Agriculture acting director Dr Alvin Chai and other officials.