Private firms urged to help farmers succeed

1/15/2009 — NST
Private companies in the agriculture sector should help the government nurture more local farmers into successful agro-entrepreneurs, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday.
He said the private companies, particularly those participating in the country’s food production parks, could help by sharing their expertise, knowledge and marketing network.
“They should involve the locals in their agriculture project and allow smallholders near their plantations to participate in similar ventures,” he said when launching the 3,600ha permanent food production park and Lanchang Modern Agriculture Park near here.
Present were his wife Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and East Coast Economic Region chief executive officer Datuk Jebasingam Issace John.
Abdullah said assistance from the private sector was important as it could help farmers improve the quality and quantity of their produce.
The companies could supply better seedlings and fertiliser to the farmers, apart from sharing good agricultural practices.
Abdullah also called for proper planning to avoid a glut of certain fruits or other produce.
“We should not all market fresh fruits at the same time as it will bring down the prices. We should instead process some of them into other products.”
He said factories could be built to help process fruits into value-added products, such as juice and canned goods.
“This can generate higher income as such products fetch better prices than fresh fruits.”
The prime minister said many villagers were already producing such goods and that the results could be seen at various agriculture exhibitions.
“Some have already set up their own factories.”
Citing an example, Abdullah said a successful farmer was earning up to RM5 million annually by producing “rojak” sauce at his factory while a Penang businessman had made his name overseas with his “Lingham” chilli sauce.
The Lanchang Modern Agriculture Park has allocated 3,200ha to private companies and 400ha to local agro-entrepreneurs.
As of December last year, more than 2,300ha of the country’s biggest permanent food production parks had been planted with various types of fruits, including jackfruit, papaya and starfruit.
Abdullah later visited the Malaysian Agrifood Corporation Berhad’s seed farm where research and development of the “Paiola” papayas was being carried out.
MAFC is a Khazanah Nasional Berhad wholly-owned subsidiary.