PUTRAJAYA: The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries (MAFI) has implemented various measures to ensure that the welfare of the people continues to be given priority as the country faces challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has strengthened the agriculture sector and food industry to make sure that agriculture, fisheries and livestock products are not affected during this difficult time so that food supply is always sufficient for all Malaysians.
Its minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee, said the agro-food industry faced major challenges, especially in the early stages of the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO), where the smooth operation of the food chain was disrupted, including the production, distribution and retail of agricultural products.
“MAFI, with the cooperation of all related parties, ensures that the situation is always under control. In this regard, we have ensured that the food supply for the people is adequate and stable,” he told reporters at the ‘Setahun Malaysia Prihatin’ achievements ceremony at the MAFI headquarters here.
Kiandee said MAFI had taken various approaches especially to manage supply shortages as well as to manage overstock issues.
“Among them are the implementation of Controlled Fresh Markets (PST) in 196 selected locations and the implementation of Online Marketing (E-Commerce) in strategic collaboration with Shopee, Lazada, MyGrocer, Ourshop/Ourfarm Airasia, Dropee and others.
“This is the biggest achievement for us at MAFI, that is ensuring food security for the people throughout the implementation of the MCO. We are not yet free from the threat of Covid-19, and I am confident that MAFI will continue to ensure food security for the people in any situation,” he said.
On MAFI’s achievements over the past year, Kiandee said the ministry has achieved seven major milestones.
“Among others MAFI has placed the food security agenda as a national agenda with the establishment of the Cabinet Committee on National Food Security Policy (FSCC), chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“This committee is responsible in examining issues related to food security in a comprehensive and holistic manner. This is the first Cabinet Committee formed under the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government,” he said.
Kiandee added MAFI also developing a Paddy Field Profiling System nationwide and paddy information management.
“A soil profile information for a total of 350,000 hectares of paddy parcel area will facilitate the preparation of new subsidised fertiliser formulations as well as enable monitoring of the entire paddy and rice value chain to be carried out online,” he said.
Kiandee said another achievement of MAFI was that it had improved the distribution process of certified rice seeds with new initiatives.
They include appointing the National Farmers Organisation (NAFAS) as the sole wholesaler in the certified rice seed initiative programme and also setting the ceiling price of certified rice seeds at RM35 per bag.
“These initiatives can prevent the manipulation of certified rice seeds and prices on the ground through uncontrolled purchases by various parties at the factory as well as to avoid the dominance of any particular supplier over the legal rice seed market in particular, and the paddy and rice sector in general.
“This initiative benefits almost 320,000 farmers across the peninsula,” he said.
Smart large-scale paddy Farming to the fore
Kiandee also said to make the country’s paddy and rice industry more competitive throughout the industry value chain, MAFI has started implementing the large-scale Smart Paddy Field (Smart SBB) Programme.
Smart SBB is a public and private collaboration between the government and leading companies to develop a paddy cultivation area of 150,000 hectares per season for the first phase in stages in Peninsular Malaysia.
“The implementation of Smart SBB will also help in restructuring industry players more systematically, especially in minimising and eliminating the involvement of middlemen who are seen to create a gap between farmers and rice production and marketing.
“This smart SBB will change the landscape of the country’s paddy and rice industry as well as helping to achieve the government’s goal of ensuring the country’s food security at all times,” he said.
A more secure future for fishermen
Kiandee further explained that the fourth achievement by MAFI was related to the implementation of the Social Security Organisation Scheme (Socso) contribution programme for fishermen, which is the Self-Employed Social Security Scheme for fishermen, implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resources.
He said a total of 42,000 fishermen enjoy Socso’s protection contributed from the Fishermen’s Subsistence Allowance.
“The Fishermen’s Subsistence Allowance has also been increased from RM250 to RM300 a month which will benefit more than 40,000 fishermen and the Nelayan Darat (Inland Fishermen) Subsistence Allowance has been increased from RM200 to RM250 which will benefit 3,400 fishermen,” he said.
Kebuniti to spur farming in communities
In an effort to help reduce the cost of living and help ensure food security, especially for the B40 group in the city and suburbs, MAFI has implemented the Kebuniti Programme, which has been well-received by the people. Kiandee said that the government had allocated more than RM30 million to implement this programme.
In 2020, the Kebuniti programme has benefited more than 13,524 individuals and 632 communities. This initiative was continued this year under the Kebuniti 2.0 Programme, he said.
Kiandee noted that even so, the achievements mentioned are just some of the main accomplishments of MAFI.
“There are many more achievements that we have throughout 2020, despite facing the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. All the achievements and successes of MAFI throughout the year 2020 would not have been possible without the cooperation of committed and dedicated Ministry, Department and agency staff,” he said.
Kiandee expressed his confidence that with the continued support and commitment of all MAFI staff and industry players, it will be able to continue to uphold the country’s agro-food sector and food security as well as protect farmers, ranchers and fishermen as a whole.
Agrobank scheme benefits S’wak, Sabah entrepreneurs
As of December 31, 2020, a total of 8,832 micro entrepreneurs received financing from Agrobank involving a financing value of RM181.12 million through the Agrobank Microcredit Financing Scheme initiative under the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana).
Kiandee said, of this total, 4,659 recipients who received RM104.19 million were from Sabah, while a total of 4,173 recipients involving a financing value of RM76.93 million are from Sarawak.
Among the projects funded include those under Penjana’s Agromakanan Fund; swiftlet farming house construction project in Beluran, Sabah; and in Sarawak, tilapia fish breeding contract farm in Tasik Batang Ai, Sri Aman; Paddy Fields Development Programme in Batang Lupar, Sri Aman and the Sarawak Micro-credit Scheme under the state’s Economic Stimulus Package.
Bouncing back with govt’s aid
The microcredit financing scheme is a good initiative that helps local businesses, especially those operating on a small scale.
The government channels the funds through BSN and Agrobank, besides TEKUN. These banks are customer friendly and dealing with them for the funds is easy, and they help increase the cash flow of businesses.
This is the best way for the government to disburse the funds.
I received the loan from the microcredit financing scheme and I felt relief during the Covid-19 pandemic. The loan helps my cash flow.
Although it is not for the long term, but in the short term, it has helped us businesses weather the storm. I am grateful to the government for caring about the business community.
— Shihan Mohd Salim
Restauranteur and Sabah Muslim Chambers of Commerce member
The microcredit loan scheme has helped alleviate my burdens during this pandemic. I’ve used it to pay my utility bills, boost my cash flow and my business capital. Thank you to the government for being concerned about businesses. This is really a good initiative for all businesses. It has made us more resilient during this pandemic.
Entrepreneurs should take advantage of the microcredit financing scheme because previously, it was not easy taking out such loans.
Looking at the situation now, it is the banks that is looking for borrowers and many entrepreneurs are taking loans through the various assistance offered by the government. The Sabah Entrepreneurs Chambers of Commerce will disseminate information on financial aid, moratorium and special loans with low interest to its members.
With the sharing of such information, the members will be able to get more help from the government to use as capital to sustain their businesses.
The microcredit financing scheme is a good effort on the part of the government to help entrepreneurs keep their business going especially now with the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Persatuan Industri Kecil dan Sederhana Wanita Sabah (IKSNITA) welcomes aid like this. The banks need not worry about giving out loans to women entrepreneurs because we have always have a good record of paying back our loans. Many entrepreneurs will be applying for the financing scheme because many of them have been affected by the pandemic. Therefore, the government should look into making it easier for people to apply for the loans, such as by doing it online. In this digital era, it’s easier for transactions to be carried out online.