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Ministry seeks funds to strengthen food security


MORE DEMAND: Focus to be on water and soil management to raise output

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry is seeking a bigger allocation in 2013 Budget to enhance the country's food security.

Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar said yesterday the government needed to allocate more money as the population was growing.

"Under the National Agro-Food Policy, we will try to strengthen food security by focusing on water and soil management next year."

Noh was speaking at a Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration here organised by the Farmers' Organisation Authority.

Later, during the organisation's retirement and long service award presentation ceremony, its chairman, Datuk Zainal Dahalan, echoed Noh's statement.

"We need extra allocations to enhance and improve the current infrastructure as the demand for agriculture products is growing."

Zainal said with instability suffered by several food-producing countries, Malaysia needed to strengthen its food security.

The organisation's director-general, Datuk Arpan Shah Satu, suggested that the government should help train more progressive farmers.

"The organisation needs a bigger allocation because we intend to give the farmers loans instead of grants.

"This will help them to expand their business and come out with better products," he said.

About 90 retirees and 33 long service employees received certificates of appreciation from Zainal.

Meanwhile, the Malaysia Palm Oil Board (MPOB) hoped that next year's budget would give special attention to efforts to generate economic growth for smallholders.

MPOB chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad said despite various steps taken by the government in providing assistance to smallholders, including oil palm replantation, there were other sections of the industry that needed attention.

The government was urged to encourage smallholders to become members of local cooperatives so they could reap more benefits from their produce.

"There are still smallholders in Malaysia who are not members of any cooperatives and they prefer to work individually.

"However, this prevents them from receiving aid such as fertiliser, replanting of palm oil trees and loans for buying equipment.

"At the same time, the cost of building roads to oil palm plantations is high and most smallholders cannot afford them, causing delay in mobilising work in the plantations.

"As a result, production suffers," Shahrir said yesterday.

He proposed that the government provide special incentives in the form of "specific encouragement" to smallholders so they could start building roads into their plantations.

Shahrir, who is also Johor Bahru member of parliament, lauded the government's action in planning future advancements for the growth of the plantation industry.

He said this effort should be stepped up in order to ensure that smallholders were able to generate higher income.

Prior to this, Deputy Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainudin also made a recommendation to oil palm smallholders to form local cooperatives to earn more income.

He said local smallholders should look at the success of Indonesian smallholders, who had outperformed plantation companies.

Hamzah said oil palm smallholders in Malaysia only accounted up to 39.3 per cent of the country's total palm oil production.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar (centre) says the government needs to allocate more money for food as the population is growing.

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