KUCHING: Sarawak wants to harness the potential of its agriculture resources so that the state can become a net exporter of produce and products that meet the needs of the domestic and global markets.
Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state’s resources included two million hectares of agriculture land, large water bodies totalling 171,540ha for aquaculture, marine resources with a potential catch of 330,000 tonnes per year and biodiversity resources which could be developed for the pharmaceutical and food industries.
He said this vision could be achieved by transforming agriculture into a competitive, dynamic and sustainable sector, capable of generating new innovative businesses and high-value employment opportunities.
“For a start, our target is to increase the monthly household income of our farmers from RM2,750 to at least RM4,000 by 2020. Through this effort, we will also alleviate poverty in rural areas from the current level of 1.6%.
“For food production, we aim to increase our self-sufficiency level for rice from 53% to 60%, fruits and vegetables from 60% to 65%, fisheries from 92% to 100% and beef from 10% to 50%,” he said when opening the International Conference on Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Sarawak at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching.
Abang Johari said agriculture contributed 14% to the state’s GDP and 11% or RM10.3bil to the state’s total exports last year.
He said Sarawak imported RM4.4bil worth of food last year while only exporting RM1.17bil, resulting in a deficit of RM3.27bil.
To transform agriculture, he said the state government’s main strategies were modernisation, commercialisation and application of digital technology.
These are aimed at increasing the production and quality of agriculture products, attracting more private sector participation and becoming more competitive.
Key initiatives under the strategies include strengthening human capital, expanding the state’s marketing network, undertaking aggressive investment and trade promotion, identifying appropriate business models and applying digital technologies.
Abang Johari said the state government was also setting up a special purpose vehicle to attract more private sector investment and promote trade to enable agriculture products to enter the global market.
In addition, an allocation of RM100mil has been approved for venture capital to strengthen the financing model for agriculture.