Six-point suggestions for Tan
Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to take immediate actions to help farmers to
improve production and quality of life
by Ronnie Liu
Wednesday): In a
special Sunday interview with NST on March 13, 2005, Agriculture and
Agro-based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin shows his strong
determination to promote agriculture and agro-industries in the country. He
has stressed on the need for massive re-orientation to boost agriculture. He
has also touched on his strategies and directions but unable to spell out
concrete plans and measures to help farmers and fishermen to improve their
production and quality of life.
According to Muhyiddin, there are
about 600,000 people working in the agricultural sector. His ministry has
started to gather information from the farmers through a nation-wide census.
By now, he should be fully aware that 70% of the vegetable farmers do not
possess their own farmland and were considered illegal farmers all these
years. The predicament of the Ulu Yam vegetable farmers is just the tip of
Both the Federal and State Governments
have neglected the agricultural sector for too long. As a result, many local
fruits such as durian, rambutan, mangosteen and chiku are now much more
expensive than imported fruits like apples and oranges. One day, we
Malaysians may even have to pay a higher price for vegetables than paying
Muhyiddin has said that he needs to
bring in the private sector to invest about RM20 to RM30 billion in the next
5 years in order to push the growth of the agriculture sector from 3.6% of
the GDP to 6.8%. Who is going to pump in this amount of money? I certainly
share the sentiment of the puzzled minister.
DAP supports all efforts to make
agriculture the third engine of growth for the country. Before the minister
embarks on his mega plans, here are some suggestions for the minister to
help improve agricultural production and quality of life for the farmers
with little or no additional capital investment. All these suggestions need
immediate attention of the minister.
1. Help legalise farmlands
and allocate new lands for the farmers. With the legalised status, the
farmers will then have peace of mind to invest more money and energy
into their farmlands to improve production and quality. Modern day farming
needs a large capital investment. At the moment, most of the state
governments refuse to legalise farmlands, and they seldom allocate land for
farming and agriculture. How do we encourage the locals to go into the
agricultural sector if the government continue to limit the allocation of
2. Direct diesel agents to sell the fuel directly to fishermen
without going through middlemen. Take the case of Pantai Remis in Perak.
80% of the fishermen here were now unable to go out to the sea to do
fishing due to the unbearable high price of diesel. Those who went out risk
losing money if they were not lucky enough to haul in bigger harvest. The
price of diesel has gone up to more than RM1.26 per liter as compared to
around 77 sen per liter in the previous years. Recently, the price of
seafood has gone up by 50% to 100% but not to the benefit of the fishermen.
3. Allow padi farmers in Sekinchan and Perak to plant fragrant rice.
The Sekinchan farmers have successfully planted fragrant rice, but they
were banned by the Agriculture Ministry to do so. Such ruling is totally
unfair to the farmers and the ban has prevented the farmers from improving
their earnings and quality of life.
4. Negotiate with Bernas to set a fairer price structure for local
padi farmers. Also in Sekinchan, the farmers have to sell their padi to
Bernas, but they have been deprived of a fairer price structure ever since
the privatisation of Lembaga Padi Nasional to Bernas.
5. Allow farmers to employ legal foreign workers. Farming is
considered a dirty and difficult job by the locals. Farmers have no choice
but to employ foreign workers to help them from planting to harvesting. The
farmers will certainly be able to increase production with the help of legal
foreign workers. The price of vegetables has gone up by 50% but the farmers
have not benefited from the price increase.
6. Reopen the Bukit Pelanduk pig farms in Negeri Sembilan. The
menacing nipah viruses have gone long ago. The reopening of Bukit Pelanduk
pig farms is long overdue. Has the government leaders totally forgotten
about their election pledges and commitment to the people?
* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew,
DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief