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KUCHING: Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said his vision for Sarawak’s agriculture sector is for it to become a nett exporter of high quality agriculture produce and products that meet the needs of both domestic and global markets.
He however said the task to transform the state’s agriculture sector to meet the vision “is a challenging task,” as he set the broad direction for the transformation of the agriculture sector in the state in his address at the international conference on agriculture and agro-based industry of Sarawak (ICAAS) in Kuching.
“The reason is that we need to address key issues, while harnessing the vast potentials of our agriculture resources.”
“I would like the sector to be competitive, vibrant, dynamic, sustainable and capable to generate more new innovative businesses and high value employment opportunities,” he said.
To start off the vision, his immediate target is to increase the monthly household income of Sarawak farmers from RM2,750 to at least RM4,000 by 2020.
He said if their monthly household income touches RM5,516, Sarawak will reduce the 50% mean household income disparity between the rural and the urban.
“Through this effort, we will also be able to alleviate the incidence of poverty in the rural areas from the current level of 1.6%.”
In the area of food production, the chief minister aims to increase the state’s self-sufficiency level (SSL) in food.
He said presently, the SSL targets for food items are, rice from 53% to 60%; fruits and vegetables from 60% to 65%; fisheries from 92% to 100% and beef from 10% to 50%.
Abang Johari said while the state has set its target, foremost on the target “to-do list” is the need to change the mindset of young people towards agriculture.
“Their perception is that agriculture is associated with low wages, labour intensive, low applications of technology, traditional agriculture practices, insufficient injection of capital, unorganised farming communities, poverty and agriculture is all about rural areas.”
“Agriculture is no longer as such but rather a lucrative and profitable venture.
“It is knowledge-based, high income, digital and high tech applications, modern management practices, capital intensive and greater market access.”
The chief minister also said for Sarawak to achieve the vision, the state needs to have innovative and effective strategies and initiatives.
“Our main strategies are modernisation, commercialisation and application of digital technology.”
He outlined 13 key initiatives “in order to operationalise these strategies”.
He said Sarawak first needs to strengthen the capacity and capability of its human capital by turning them to be highly knowledgeable, technically competent, business oriented and marketing savvy. And then expand the state’s marketing network through trading hubs, strengthen its transportation and logistics, expand and improve our warehouse and collection, processing and packaging centres (CPPC) and equip them with digital infrastructures.
All these, Abang Joari said, would enable the state to have access to the huge market potential within the ASEAN region with a population of 629 million and GDP of USD2.4 trillion and China market with a population of 1.37 billion and GDP of USD11.8 trillion.
The third initiative was to set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) “to attract more private sector investment and promote trades to enable our agriculture products to enter the global market”.
Then the state has to strengthen its financing model for agriculture sector not only through the conventional banking but also through venture capital.
For this purpose, the chief minister approved an allocation of RM100 million.
He said the state would then:
undertake aggressive and systematic investment and trade promotion to promote Sarawak as the ideal destination for agriculture and agro-based industries.
continue to identify appropriate business models to integrate in all players within the supply chain to enhance the development and competitiveness of the agriculture sector.
apply modern and digital technologies including fertigation, smart farming and artificial insemination (AI) to increase production and improve quality standards especially to meet export market requirements.
strengthen enforcement for sustainable management of the state’s marine resources and promote downstream processing industries.
expand the planted areas for other commodities and food crops besides oil palm such as rubber, pepper, sago, cocoa, coconut, pineapple, durian and rambutan.
focus the state’s research and development (R&D) activities on areas that can generate high value added agriculture products.
set up farming incubator and encourage in-situ (on site) R&D that utilise digital technology to collect and analyse critical data to manage the farming variables.
develop and manage the full supply chain of the state’s agriculture industry from farm to table and the value chain involving downstream agro-based industries.
Nd finally establish regional development agencies such as the Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Upper Rajang Development Agency (URDA) and implement other major regional development projects such as Sarikei-Bintangor-Betong Food Basket, Bukit Sadok Agropolitan and Tanjung Manis Halal Hub. – dayakdaily.com