PUTRAJAYA, June 11 (Bernama) — Poverty issues among paddy farmers and food security get top attention from the government.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said among the factors that contributed to the poverty among paddy farmers were that they were too dependent on subsidy and not being efficient in fully utilising their land holding.
The government, he said had allocated more than RM1.8 bilion per year to subsidise 200,000 paddy farmers and needed to import US$60 billion of food per year.
“We have received several matters that resulted in their being poor. Firstly, they have too small a holding to yield good returns.
“Secondly, they are not efficient. A plot of one acre can yield eight tons, but they only produce four tons,” he told a press conference after chairing the Economic Action Council meeting here today.
Also present were Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali; Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail; Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Salahuddin Ayub and Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz.
Dr Mahathir said the method of planting must be improved as well as the way paddy farmers applied the fertiliser in order to boost yield per acre and also not force them to only plant paddy.
“They can have alternate crops that can give better returns such as cash crops where three or four harvests can be made yearly and give better returns compared to padi cultivation.
“Padi in Kedah can be grown twice a year, while in other places it can only be planted once a year, so their income is certainly lower, that is why we have to look at padi farmers’ poverty as a whole,” he said, adding that at the same time the country needed to take care of food security issues as well.
“We have to identify the areas that we can do to at least help farmers raise their earning and at the same time not bear the cost to the consumers. Consumer price cannot be increased in order to enrich the farmers,” said Dr Mahathir.
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