28/11/2023 05:13 PM

KUCHING, Nov 28 (Bernama) -- Sarawak's Ministry of Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development will continue to develop paddy cultivation infrastructure as one of the intervention measures to increase local rice production in the state.

Its minister, Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom said to date, more than 30 existing Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) Scheme areas covering over 10,000 hectares had been identified for paddy cultivation.

"My ministry proposed to gazette areas solely for paddy cultivation that covers some of the existing DID Schemes and newly-identified areas," he said during the winding up session for his ministry at the State Legislative Assembly sitting here today.

He said a new approach for paddy development would also be taken where all the farm infrastructure would be developed by DID while the Sarawak's Department of Agriculture (DOA) would focus on paddy plantation.

"The present approach is still using conventional approach whereby the basic infrastructure is developed by DID Sarawak, while tertiary infrastructure development and paddy cultivation is under DOA Sarawak, which was found to be ineffective," he said.

Dr Rundi said paddy planting areas in Sarawak had dropped significantly by over 37 per cent over the last seven years when only about 78,000 hectares were recorded last year as compared to 124,111 in 2016.

He listed out lesser number of active paddy planters, deteriorating farm infrastructure, rising production input costs, more land used for other lucrative crop plantation and lack of interest among younger generation to plant paddy were among reasons for the decrease.

According to him, the State DOA had earmarked a 45-hectare area that already had farm infrastructure at Stumbin in the Sri Aman Division for the development of a quality paddy seed production centre. 

In addition, his ministry is also taking measures to strengthen paddy and rice supply chain by encouraging farmers to embrace mechanisation and automation in their farming activities.

As of last year, he said Sarawak produced 85,700 metric tonnes of rice that represent 5.1 per cent of the national total production and equivalent to 34 percent of the state's Self-Sufficiency Level (SSL).

"To meet our local demand, Sarawak imported 164,621 metric tonnes of rice valued at RM362 million," he added.