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Addressing 30pc rice sufficiency in Sabah
Published on: Wednesday, June 21, 2023
By: Jonathan Nicholas
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Addressing 30pc rice sufficiency in Sabah
George (second left) shaking hands with Matthew after signing the MoU at the SCC Building on Monday.
PENAMPANG: Local think tank AgriData Portal (AP) plans to kill two birds with one stone by eradicating Sabah’s rural poverty and improving food security following a memorandum of understanding signed with the Sabah Credit Corporation (SCC) on Monday.

AP CEO, Matthew Johnny Kulai, said their growing database of more than 13,000 Sabahan farmers is a vital asset in attracting investments and a catalyst for potential future consumer policy changes.

“Speaking from history, food will be weaponised during wars. Right now our rice supply is dependent on Thailand and Vietnam.

“As evidenced by the Russia-Ukraine war, agricultural nations can choose to stop exports at any time to fulfil the needs of their own people before those in other countries.

“It also saddens me as a younger generation Sabahan that we celebrated the Harvest Festival last month knowing that only 30.8 per cent of rice in Sabah is locally produced.

“The national rice production figure is at 65 per cent which is still low. Then what is the meaning of Kaamatan?

“Food security also does not necessarily mean the availability of crops but also its affordability, in most cases the product is there but the people don’t have the buying power,” he said.

From his recent nine-day trip to Vietnam with local farmer associations, they learnt that less is more when it comes to agriculture.

“Vietnam farmers mostly utilise small one acre plots to cultivate cash crops including durians and avocados. Their focus is not size in the size of land but production and revenue.

“Sabahan youths need to see that agriculture is a sector with huge potential just like those in other countries. Sabah has so much unused land yet agriculture seems to have become a sunset industry. We need to modernise it,” he said.

The 25-year-old said the funding would go to Kundasang, Ranau as the market exists but is without technology.

He said greenhouse methods effectively doubled 15,000 sq. ft tomato revenues from RM20,000 to RM50,000 because of quality yields.

“AP consolidates information of where and what to grow up to the selling stage. For example, Tawau consumes  need more beef than any district in the State so we need to empower farmers related to that industry there,” he said, adding high logistical costs could be slashed this way.

Meanwhile, SCC CEO George Taitim said the microcredit deal synergises expertise towards the common goals of locals in raising their socioeconomic status.

“This should be the way GLCs or NGOs go instead of duplicating projects which is redundant.

“SCC offers zero interest loans while AP ensures farmers do their jobs. People who work themselves up will naturally create job opportunities and support the government’s drive for food security. 

“AP can impart on our people the efficient ways to ramp up production and quality. The SCC is not interested in collateral, but participants must have a passion for the project with a motivation to improve their social status,” he said.

In a nutshell, George said the role of AP is to reduce the impact of middlemen so that the whole strata may reap commensurate benefits.

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