Thursday, May 8, 2008


Rice production in the state was of much concern and was a matter that had frequently been asked by the members of the Dewan Undangan Negeri Sarawak all these years. Although Sarawak has vast empty lands we could not until now find many huge padi fields in the state. If we had been successful in our agricultural plan for rice production in the state, then, definitely questions on rice production and the state’s agricultural policy would not have become hot topics all these while. This time, there were eight YBs including me, raised the same issue in the Dewan sitting on 7th May, 2008. What I could understand is that there had been much talking by the minister and the talking were always very impressive, but, I could not understand why questions and such issues cropped up again and again in the Dewan. The only conclusion I could adduce is that the agriculture plan on rice production in the state until now is nothing, but, a failure.

The state has vast suitable land and there is no reason that until now since independence we just had achieved 53% rice sufficiency in the state. The state should by now be able to attain 100% rice self-sufficiently or even could have export rice to other needing countries. If war torn countries like Vietnam and Cambodia have little problem with rice production then, there is no reason Sarawak could not do better than them. We even had rice imported from Vietnam! Their padi fields could have been filled with land mines and their land was damaged by war, but, yet they could do better than Sarawak. This is something the State Government has to learn and find out, but, not just talk, talk, talk and talk only but no progress.

Tan Sri Datuk Dr.George Chan as State Minister of Modern Agriculture in his reply on small padi plantations only said that:

“We have you know, there are two ways of dealing with padi farming. One way is you help the farmers with say, look, you give the land, I will have central management and you know, manage the land for you. The other way is to manage the farmers and say look, we will help you to manage your farm. In other words, we tell the farmers, you listen to me, I will help you with the machinery, you must work together as a group because I cannot individually give you each machine. We will try to get them machineries and help them say, we will help you with the dealing the land or cultivating the land also we can help them with harvesting which takes time a long time.”

But the bottom line is that, what had dr. George Chan’s Ministry of Modern Agriculture done to implement these ideas as in the minister’s answers it was just plain talking! Not an area had been said that the idea had been implemented! So without implementation, how could we expect increased production of padi farming even in small holdings in the state?

From the minister’s answer it was clear that no stateland had yet been alienated to entrepreneurs for big scale padi plantation in the state. This was because nothing was said about this too!

As far as large scale padi plantation is concerned, it seems Sarawak had been sleeping since independence in 1963 to make a study on this. From what the Minister, Tan Sri Datuk Dr. George Chan had said, it seems that it was only recently the state government made feasibility studies for huge scale padi plantations with feasibility studies on eight areas only in the state and none of the areas under study had begun plantations for padi. What the minister had said was that the government was just about to start such large padi plantation soon with Sungai Sebelak area at Roban. Until padi plantation in all these eight areas been fully developed Sarawakians in the years to come will feel the pinch of increasing prices of rice. Countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia that export rice to Sarawak, will in the years to come take this opportunity to hold Sarawak at ransom to increase their prices of rice when they know we need rice badly for our people.

Dr. George Chan should go to China, Cambodia and Vietnam to find out how padi plantations developed there. If countries like Cambodia and Vietnam whose padi fields could be damaged by the wars and could also at one time be full of land land mines could grow padi in large scale, then, there is no reason why Sarawak could not do better than these countries.

From answers given by Dr.George Chan, it was plain clear that our Malaysia’s agricultural policy on huge scale padi plantation did not include the development of large scale padi plantation in the state.

The Federal Government should have an earlier vision to develop the state as a leading rice producing state in Malaysia and should not wait until now. The Prime Minister’s recent announcement for an allocation of RM4 billion and of which RM50 million was said had already been released to Sarawak to develop these padi plantations. Although it was much welcome, but, this showed the lack of foresight to make Sarawak the leading rice bowl in Malaysia.

Now, the question will be that where and how the RM50 million will be spent and whether Sarawak will ever get the RM4 billion allocation in full for its padi plantation development. DAP will keep on monitoring this and is hoping that BN government will be serious to make Sarawak a leading rice bowl in Malaysia, but, not just plain talk only.
In recent months the prices of rice kept on increasing and in many countries there were food shortage and it is afraid that this will create global food crisis soon.

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