KUCHING: Rubber smallholders in Sarawak have received RM500 each from the Federal Government to help them face the current low price of the commodity.
Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said the one-off assistance was part of the Government’s efforts to ease the burden of smallholders.
Some 76,077 smallholders throughout the state are getting the assistance, totalling RM38mil.
On Tuesday, Shafie handed over the payment to 600 smallholders from Bau at the Youth and Sports Complex here.
Besides the one-off assistance, Shafie said the Government was looking at other measures to help smallholders in the long term.
He said a special committee was considering proposals such as setting up centralised factories and transport system.
“The payment is just a one-off step. Looking forward, we need to see what approach or system we should put in place so that we can continue to provide assistance to smallholders and improve their income,” he said.
He also said his ministry and Risda would work together with the state Agriculture Department to channel assistance and support to smallholders, including skills training and helping them to improve their productivity.
“We want to make sure that we can increase the productivity of rubber from time to time. If we can do that, their income will also increase even at times when prices are dropping,” he said.
In addition, Shafie advised smallholders to diversify their economic activities which can give them a side income when rubber prices drop.
He said they could plant other crops such as pepper or venture into entrepreneurship to supplement their income from rubber, which was currently facing declining prices.
“We encourage smallholders to venture into different activities, including entrepreneurship, so that they have a side income,” he said.
He also said Mara and Risda were introducing a scholarship for the children of smallholders to pursue tertiary education.
He said an initial 20 scholarships would be offered to eligible students with good results.