‘Let’s get serious in food production’ — Abang Johari

Abang Johari (3rd left) listening to a briefing on fish rearing in a hydroponic aquaponic pond at the ongoing Sarawak Agrofest 2019. Uggah is standing to his right.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Nov 22: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has called on Sarawakians to be serious in food production to be less dependent on food import.

He said the state has been importing about RM4.7 billion worth of food annually and can no longer afford to continue as a net importer of food items.

Sarawak must strive to become a net food producer by 2030 to ensure food security.

“We have to be serious in our efforts to be self-sufficient in food production for our own consumption and to reduce our reliance on food import,” Abang Johari said at the Sarawak Agrofest 2019 here today.

He added that Sarawak must emulate Singapore, as it is currently the number one country in the world in terms of food security.

“Singapore has no land but is the number one in the world in terms of food security. This is ironic because Malaysia, which has so much land and resources, is placed 40th.

“So, we really have to buck up and start to produce enough food for our own consumption without reliance on other countries,” he said.

According to the chief minister, Sarawak’s main imported food items consisted of the following: Edible food products (RM1 billion), feedstocks (RM463 million), cereals (RM349 million) and maize (RM337 million).

Others included rice at RM281 million, vegetables (RM220 million), sugar (RM175 million), meat (RM170 million, milk and cream RM169 million, fish (RM150 million), wheat (RM130 million), coffee (RM126 million, fruits and nits (RM137 million) and others (RM78 million).

Sarawak’s food export contributed to only 12.4 per cent or RM900 million of the state’s total gross domestic product (GDP) and expected to increase by 2.4 per cent next year.

“Due to the importance of agriculture and food production, we have allocated RM797 million for that purpose next year. We want improve our agriculture sector to use modern technology so that we can produce better and quality products not just for our own consumption but also for export.

“Our target is to become a net exporter of food by 2030. So, the state government has made agriculture as one of the main thrusts of economic growth to propel Sarawak to achieve developed status by 2030,” he continued.

Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, said this is the second year that Sarawak has organised the Sarawak Agrofest, which was formerly known as Farmers, Breeders and Fishermen’s Day.

“This is our new initiative to move our agriculture towards modern agriculture by adopting modern technology,” said the deputy chief minister.

He said this year, 300 stalls were set up in seven pavilions to showcase different agriculture products.

Uggah added that with RM797 million allocation for next year, his ministry has come up with various incentives to assist farmers and fishermen to increase their productivity and to assist them during hard times especially during the monsoon season. — DayakDaily