Local maize can save country billions of ringgit

Ahmad Shabery says there are many parcels of land in the country which can be turned into corn farms. — Bernama

ISKANDAR PUTERI: It is about time Malaysia produces its own animal feed from maize for the livestock industry as the move will save billions of ringgit in annual foreign exchange.

“The country spends about RM3.2bil importing some three million tonnes of maize yearly from Argentina,” said Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

He said this after closing the 39th annual general meeting of Johor Farmers Association here.

Ahmad Shabery said Malaysia already started corn farming to produce maize as animal feed with farms in Johor, Kedah and Terengganu covering about 1,000ha, but these were insufficient to meet local demands.

He said between 300,000 and 400,000ha of land would be required to cultivate corn on a large-scale basis, similar to what was being done in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

“These three countries are self-sufficient in terms of producing animal feed from maize and we could learn a thing or two from them,” added Ahmad Shabery.

He said the weakening ringgit would force the country to fork out more money to import animal feed and this would cause the price of chickens to go up.

Ahmad Shabery said the country was self-sufficient when it came to producing chickens and eggs for local consumption, with Malaysians consuming 1.8 million chickens and 20 million eggs daily.

“There are many idle parcels of land and state-owned land including former paddy fields, which could be turned into corn farms,” he added.

On another issue, Ahmad Shabery said it was cheaper for Malaysia to import RM2bil worth of beef, mostly from India, instead of breeding cows for meat consumption.

However, he said Malaysia would still need to breed cattle for Hari Raya Aidiladha, as cows are slaughtered on that day.

“For this year’s Hari Raya Aidiladha, 31,000 cows were slaughtered, of which 18,000 were imported from Thailand and Myanmar,” said Ahmad Shabery.

He said Malaysia should reduce its dependency on Thailand and Myanmar as China and Vietnam were also importing cows from the two countries.

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