Farmers want to be heard

Getting organised: A farmer looking at his foreign workers harvesting vegetables in a farm in Cameron Highlands. Farmers in Camerons are in the midst of forming a new association to manage the problems they are facing.

TANAH RATA: A group of disgruntled small-time farmers here have resorted to staging protests over pressing issues affecting them after their plight fell on deaf ears.

They are also in the midst of setting up a new association to represent their voices and set up meetings with the relevant authorities.

Wong Seng Yee, 36, who operates a five acres farm in Bertam Valley, said despite his family having toiled for three generations, they had yet to receive the land title.

Wong said as a result, he had to renew his permit for the TOL land every year.

“This is troublesome and I am also having difficulties to secure a big loan amount to purchase equipment and machinery to tend to my farm due to the land status.

“In addition, we are facing a shortage of workers due to red tape and long renewal and new permit application procedures set by the authorities,” he told StarMetro.

Wong said to address their pressing problems, they had decided to set up a new association involving all stakeholders including plant and vegetable farmers, transport operators and agriculture products suppliers.

He said the newly formed Pahang Cameron Highlands Agriculture and Farm Operators Association will hold its first meeting to appoint new office-bearers.

“So far, we have gathered some 450 industry players who are keen to join our association and negotiate with the authorities on measures to improve our well-being,” he said.

Farmer G. Nirmal, 24, said he was also facing similar predicaments in employing workers for his family farm in Brinchang.

Nirmal said there was lack of proper information and was often given the run around while submitting applications.

“We have to be in Putrajaya very early in the morning due to the long queue and the procedures keep changing.

“If we missed out on one document, then the whole day is wasted,” he said, adding that some employment agencies were taking advantage by charging them high fees to submit the applications on their behalf.

However, both farmers supported the Government’s recent crackdown to clean up the highlands of illegal farmers, who opened up large tract of land detrimental to its sustainability and fragile eco-system.

When contacted, former Cameron Highlands MP Datuk Seri S.K. Devamany said while stern action against illegal land clearers and foreign workers were lauded, the livelihood of small-time farmers was also affected.

Devamany said the relevant authorities must support farmers who applied through the right channels to employ workers legally.

“Prices of vegetables have gone up drastically due to low production. All parties such as the National Security Council, Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry and the state government should work together to facilitate farmers in boosting production while preventing further degradation in the pristine highlands,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tanah Rata assemblyman Leong Ngah Ngah of the DAP said it was beyond him to assist these farmers as he was just an Opposition assemblyman in the state government.

He said the council under the Federal Government was the sole authority to help resolve the farmers’ woes.

“The current MP (Datuk Seri G. Palanivel) sits in the Cabinet and he can bring up the issue to the authorities during its weekly meetings for a solution,” he said

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