Junz Asks GRS If Plans Are Afoot To Boost Food Production

KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans are struggling to survive with food prices that continue to soar but another impending worry is the level of food security and production in the state.

There are 322,600 hectares of land suitable for rice cultivation in Sabah but only 10% or 31,274 hectares were planted as of 2017, according to data from the Sabah Agriculture Blueprint 2021-2030.

Parti Warisan vice-president Datuk Junz Wong said Sabah is still dependent on rice imports because most of the land were developed as plantations for commodities such as oil palm and rubber.

As of 2017, only about 72 hectares of land were utilised for corn plantation.

Oil palm emerged as the most widely cultivated crop in 2011, covering a total area of 1,435,320 hectares (88.6%), followed by rubber at 87,480 hectares (5.4%).

“As a former Sabah State Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries, I would like to ask the current Sabah Deputy Chief Minister II cum Sabah State Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, is there any additional effort being done to boost the state’s rice and corn production?

“The recent statement by Sabah Daily Farmers Association president, Adjunct Professor Datuk Yap Yun Fook also worries me as the number of dairy farmers have dropped drastically from the hundreds to less than 30 now in Sabah,” he said in a statement today.

Yap had said not only did small livestock farmers lack advanced equipment to sustain milk production, they also had to grapple with rising costs and hiring workers due to Malaysia’s new minimum wage rate of RM1,500 per month.

Eventually, they had to close down for good or suspend production.

“I feel sad that more than 100 dairy farms have closed down in Sabah. I still cannot accept this bad news as the dairy milk industry is one of the few potential industries in Sabah.

“Aside from Datuk Yap’s Eco-Yap milk brand, Sabah also has the DESA milk brand, which is well known among locals and tourists.”

Junz, who is also the assemblyman for Tanjung Aru expressed worry and doubt over the current government’s ability to reach self-sufficiency level (SSL) for rice production in Sabah as well as that for milk and corn.

“As state Agriculture Minister, I initiated small-scale corn farming in Keningau.

“I also identified Trusan Sapi as a rice bowl model during the Warisan administration, aiming to provide 10% of SSL rice for Sabah.

“Concerning corn production, I would like to ask Dr. Jeffrey : Does he have alternative options to replace the imported animal feed that has soared in price over the last recent months?”

Junz reminded Dr. Jeffrey that Kota Marudu, Bongawan and Membakut were identified as potential producers of rice and other food crops during the Warisan-led state government.

“Are there any strategies being planned by Dr Jeffrey to increase food production in Sabah to achieve self-sufficiency?

Junz also asked if Dr. Jeffrey had thought of follow-up steps to ensure farmers and livestock breeders enjoy the same privilege as fishermen do for diesel subsidies.

Currently, only fishermen are eligible to enjoy subsidised diesel at RM1.60 per litre. In contrast, farmers and livestock breeders pay over RM5 per litre.

“Therefore, I urge Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) to look into this issue immediately so that farmers and livestock breeders can continue to play their part in ensuring sufficient agricultural production to meet the needs of the population in Sabah.

“Lastly, I humbly advise Dr. Jeffrey to stop talking about non-related issues in his capacity as Sabah State Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

“He should instead focus on solving the problems that are killing local farmers and livestock breeders.

“The right state policies on agriculture are required so that more dairy farms in Sabah can survive.

“When GRS is attentive to the welfare of dairy farmers, more young Sabahans will be interested to venture into the dairy industry.

“Hence, I totally agree with Datuk Yap’s stance that it’s time for the Sabah state government to provide more incentives to dairy farmers by providing cows, milking machines and chiller tanks for the mass production of milk,” he said.