ALOR SETAR, Sept 10 — Padi farmers can emerge from poverty only if they are prepared to accept the idea of consolidating their padi smallholdings and operating them as estates, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The prime minister said they should learn from the success of the amalgamation of rubber as well as oil palm smallholdings and work their land as large-scale plantations with the help of agricultural expertise and skills.
“With the new approach proposed by the government, we believe skilled and trained manpower can contribute to the padi industry and eliminate poverty,” he said when opening the National Padi Convention, here.
He also said that the approach will also involve the use of modern machinery as well as maximising land use by allocating some areas for vegetable farming and animal husbandry.
“If this method is accepted, I am sure padi farmers will no longer remain in poverty. Today, we import foodstuff to the tune of RM60 billion. With modern techniques, we do not need vast tracts of land … the yield will be bigger and it can replace the imported vegetables,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the direction of the national padi industry is not only to solve the problem of poverty among padi farmers but also to ensure that this group can continue to supply the staple food and save the people from the danger of a food shortage.
He said the group must have the knowledge to increase its income to break free from the shackles of poverty and regard the effort as a religious demand that has to be fulfilled.
“Cultivating padi, supplying food and saving us from the danger of a food shortage is also a form of worship. For Muslims, this is a religious devotion that we have to give priority to,” he said.
Dr Mahathir advised the farmers against depending too much on government subsidies and to focus on improving their living conditions.
“We can blame others for our poverty but they will not strive to change our fate. Instead, we have control over ourselves and can change our ways from bad to good,” he said.
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