Crucial to find new alternative food sources to ensure nation’s food security, says Mardi chairman


Dr Azman (second left) present Abang Johari with the ‘Underutilised Fruits of Malaysia Volume 1’ book while witnessed by Dr Rundi (second right) Dr Abdul Rahman (right) and Martin (left). – Photo by Kong Jun Liung

KUCHING (June 11): It is crucial to search for new alternative food sources to ensure the nation’s food security, says Dr Azman Ismail.

The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) chairman said these included introducing several new alternative plants such as sweet potatoes, yams and other tuberous crops with high nutritional content.

“These plants are expected to become future food sources.

“Additionally, Mardi has taken proactive steps towards reducing reliance on imported onions and developed three new varieties named Mardi red onions BAW-1, BAW-2 and BAW-3 with the ultimate aim to cut down shallot imports by 30 per cent in 2030,” he said in his welcoming speech at the 2nd Regional Conference on Agrobiodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation (RAC) 2024 here today.

He said the importance of agrobiodiversity in enhancing regional food security and mitigating the effects of climate change cannot be overstated.

“It is imperative that we come together to share knowledge, experiences, and best practices in conserving and managing agrobiodiversity in the face of a changing climate,” he remarked.

As a research institution mandated with matters related to the food and agriculture industry, Dr Azman said Mardi consistently takes significant initiatives to ensure that the country’s agrobiodiversity resources are explored and preserved.

“Mardi also bears the responsibility of ensuring sustainable agriculture through sustainable genetic resource management systems and environmentally friendly cultural practices.

“Mardi’s commitment to this imperative task is demonstrated through the establishment of field genebanks situated across various Mardi stations throughout Malaysia, prominently including Serdang, Jelebu, Sintok, Jerangau, Kemaman, and Bintulu.

“Furthermore, Mardi proudly operates MyGenebank, an advanced facility endowed with the capacity to store up to 200,000 accessions of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA),” he said.

He also said that since Mardi’s inception in 1989, the institute has meticulously curated a rice genebank housing a total of 13,020 accessions of rice germplasms.

“This invaluable repository encompasses a diverse array of landraces sourced from across the nation, introduced varieties, and essential breeding materials.

“Through these concerted efforts, Mardi remains steadfast in its mission to safeguard the genetic heritage critical for the sustenance and advancement of agricultural practices in Malaysia and beyond,” he said.

On RAC, Dr Azman said the three-day conference focuses on several key areas namely conservation of agrobiodiversity resources; managing agrobiodiversity in a changing climate; highlighting the importance of utilising diverse agricultural resources sustainably to improve productivity and resilience; alternative and potential crops for food security; and showcasing exemplary cases and achievements in the agricultural industry that demonstrate the effective utilisation of agrobiodiversity resources for sustainable development and economic growth.

“It is hoped that this conference will provide an opportunity for scholars in the region to express their opinions and assess the importance of agrobiodiversity on the scientific stage, while discussing ways to address these challenges,” he said.

Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg officiated the conference, which was attended by 185 participants including government agencies, policy makers, extension agents, researchers, entrepreneurs, academicians, students, farm managers and the private sector.

Also launched at the event was a book entitled ‘Underutilised Fruits of Malaysia Volume 1’ which documented the research on biological diversity of rare fruits at Mardi dating from the 1980s.

Present at the ceremony were Food Industry, Commodity, and Regional Development Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom and his deputies Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Ismail and Datuk Martin Ben.