Strategies to increase production of maize, rice and dairy product31/07/2022
KOTA KINABALU (July 31): The government is carrying out all the strategies necessary to strengthen Sabah’s agricultural sector and ensure that food supplies like rice and milk remain stable.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said in terms of rice production, the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry has formulated four major initiatives to increase rice production to achieve a rice Self-Sufficiency Level (SSL) of 60% by 2030.
The first strategy is to increase rice productivity and yield in existing planting areas by using technology, mechanization and automation, planting rice twice a year (in stages) in accord with the irrigation system development level, using High Yielding Variety (HYV) rice seeds and rehabilitating abandoned paddy fields.
“The ministry, through the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) is working to upgrade existing irrigation and drainage systems and build a new irrigation and drainage system for an area of 17,805 ha.
“Other strategies include intensifying research and development (R&D) activities and expanding the physical area of paddy fields. This includes a proposal to develop 11,000 hectares of rice plantations in FELDA Lahad Datu,” he said in a statement here today.
Kitingan who is also the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister said these initiatives are expected to cost RM10 billion which includes irrigation and drainage infrastructure works, fertiliser subsidies, inputs and sales, as well as machines and ploughs.
He is confident that if all of the planned strategies are implemented and there are adequate financial resources, the SSL target of 60% by 2030 can be met.
Meanwhile, Kitingan said Sabah currently produced 0.01% of its maize needs last year, with only 14 hectares of land dedicated to the crop, yielding 14 MT against total annual demands of 153,151 MT.
“The Sabah government is determined to raise maize output to 3.68% in 2025 and 14.88% by 2030.
“For a start, the existing planting area of 14 ha must be preserved and add another 1,160 hectares (including 1,000 hectares from the private sector) as new planting area under the 12th Malaysia Plan.
“To modernize the sector, conventional irrigation systems will be replaced with sprinkler systems. The industry will also use sophisticated agricultural machinery, Good Agricultural Practices (APB), drones for fertilization and pest and disease control and use high yielding varieties.
“Naturally, we will need active participation and investment from the private sector, particularly an anchor company in the cereal maize crop sector for these to succeed,” he said.
In terms of milk commodities, Sabah considers itself self-sufficient with a rate of production above 100 percent, producing 8.435 million litres of milk last year, or 115.63% of SSL.
“The issue of small farmers closing down their farms is not new. Among the contributing factors are high operational costs due to the global increase in feed costs which has an impact on the cost of fertilisers in the local market which has also increased considerably.
“Additionally, high labor costs indirectly increase the cost of farm operations. Due to the many restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now a shortage of foreign workers in the market which has been exacerbated by the increase in the minimum wage rate to RM1,500,” he said.
Furthermore, a tendency in the global livestock industry shows a drop in the number of small breeders, with commercial farms with a high number of livestock ownership replacing them.
Small breeders are frequently unable to expand their operations due to challenges such as lack of skills and knowledge in finance, marketing and so on.
As a result, many small farmers were forced to stop their operations and sell their livestock to larger farms.
“Although the number of farmers has decreased, the number of cattle on large private farms has increased. This global trend is also seen in Sabah and other livestock sub-sectors such as poultry and pigs.
“This is not a bad trend because it can improve production capacity, disease control, livestock management and pollution management.
“Therefore, even if the number of farmers has decreased to 30, this has not affected Sabah’s fresh milk production capacity,” he said.
Kitingan noted that the ministry, through the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Sabah urges GLC and private companies to participate in increasing the livestock population with the help of the federal government through the Borneo Dairy Valley Programme which begins in 2023-2024.
“So far, only two GLC companies have applied; namely Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) and Desa Keningau Livestock Industries Sdn Bhd (DKIL).
“The Borneo Dairy Valley Programme will propel the local dairy industry to new heights,” he said.
Kitingan said DVS Sabah will continue to implement and submit proposals for further allocations for projects to boost milk production and subsequently the ruminant livestock population in Sabah.
GLCs responded positively to livestock integration programmer under crops such as palm oil, and some even prepared with their own investment capital to optimize land use and boost their company’s source of income.