State govt urged to offer soft loans to rubber smallholders

Boniface Willy Tumek

KUCHING, Feb 13: An opposition leader has urged the state government to adopt Malaysian Rubber Board (Licensing and Permit) Regulation 2014 to offer soft loans to retail rubber traders in the state.

PKR Mas Gasing chairman Boniface Willy Tumek said rural families in Sarawak need every bit of help they can get, especially with the upward spiraling of prices for essential goods and services.

Other than soft loans, he also recommended that the state governemnt make a strong representation to the federal government to set a higher base price for rubber.

“To the best of our knowledge, the state government does not have any kind of price support system for rubber and it was most puzzling why the state government did not adopt Malaysia Rubber Board (Licensing and Permit) Regulation 2014,” he told a press conference today.

Soft loans were allocated under the regulation. In December 2016, the federal government through the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, which was then headed by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, announced a RM300,000 allocation in soft loans to retail rubber traders to enable them to purchase rubber at higher prices from rubber smallholders.

Recognising that the prices of natural rubber in the international market is cyclical and fluctuates often, the federal government had put in place some measures to help smallholders to mitigate the adverse effects of low rubber prices.

Other than soft loans, there is also a monsoon season allowance of RM200 per month and in 2015 government had introduced IPG — a rubber production incentive scheme. The IPG scheme involves the fixing of a base price for rubber and any time the price of rubber falls below the base price the government will step in and assist rubber traders to buy the commodity at the base price from smallholders.

Boniface said that there are about 203,900 farming families in Sarawak of which at least half are rubber smallholders.

According to statistics from the Agriculture Department of Sarawak, in 2014 there was a total of 98,400 hectares of tapped rubber tree-planted areas producing some 75,40 tonnes of rubber in 2013; the average daily production per acre would be about 1kg only.

He said the average income from rubber will be just about RM11 per day based on current prices and most rural families depending on rubber would be in the hardcore poor category.

Hence, he urged the state government to assist the rubber smallholders in the state by providing soft loans and through other measures. — DayakDaily