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Tuesday March 25, 2008

Slashing food imports is new Agriculture Minister's priority


PUTRAJAYA: Reducing the country’s food import deficit will be one of the first major tasks of the new Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Minister. 

This reduction would not only help level the national balance of payments, but farmers would also gain financial and production-related benefits, said minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed. 

He expressed his gratitude to outgoing minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for kick-starting the national agriculture agenda as a business and introducing new initiatives to help industry players, as part of the Prime Minister’s vision to transform agriculture into the country’s third engine of growth. 

Ministerial handover: Muhyiddin (right) welcoming Mustapa during the handover ceremony at the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry in Putrajaya Monday. — Bernama
“All of us are never short of targets, but my duties at the ministry will be to reach these targets and see towards their success,” he said after a welcoming ceremony led by Muhyiddin at the ministry. 

Muhyiddin takes over as Inter-national Trade and Industry Minister. 

Reports say the country had a RM6bil food import deficit in 2005. 

Muhyiddin had warned that the deficit would reach RM10bil by 2010 if nothing were done to get farmers to switch to modern farming methods, introduce value-added crops, and attract new participants to the industry. 

Mustapa said he would attend several ministry briefings and make site visits on the ground during the next few days to familiarise himself with his new duties. 

Asked on his successes during his four-year term at the ministry, Muhyiddin said he had been able to get more Malaysians to look at agriculture as a field that would bring many benefits to them. 

However, he said his biggest challenge was changing the mindset and attitude of farmers and making them see that they were participants in a highly important industry to the country.  

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