KUCHING: Transformation in the agriculture sector, in line with the industry revolution 4.0, is very much needed for Sarawak to close the economic gap between its rural and urban communities.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said agriculture remained the main economic activity for the majority of the rural people with about 215,000 farming families across the state.
“It is time to introduce smart farming and other advanced methods to help the farmers increase productivity and income,” said Uggah, who is also the Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Minister.
“The economic gap between rural and urban households is still wide and we need to find solutions to close this gap.
“The development of the rural economy must be on par with the state’s economic growth, which now shifts towards digital economy.
“We must introduce precision agriculture, use of high technology as well as produce experts that specialise in smart farming,” said Uggah at the Sarawak Farmers’ Organisation 32nd annual general meeting here yesterday.
Uggah advised members to think of long-term solutions to improve their productivity and quality of their products to be more attractive on the global market.
Touching on technology use, he cited how countries like Vietnam had introduced advanced technology and modern farming method to spur their agriculture growth for decades.
In Taiwan, farmers are utilising the Internet of Things technology as well as precision agriculture to enhance productivity.
He added that the state government planned to set up a collecting centre programme to help farmers market their produce.
A memorandum of understanding will be inked with an anchor company for the purpose.
Uggah said the state had about two million hectares of land to be developed for farming and turned into a food basket.
In the long run, the government aimed to turn Sarawak into one of the major food exporters in the region.
“The organisation plays an important role to develop farmers.
“Sarawak Farmers’ Organisation has about 160,000 members and we must work together to develop the agriculture industry.
“At the same time, farmers must be business-minded to develop the sector.
“The rural farming community can also band together to rent machines and look to introduce mechanisation in their farming,” he added.
On another note, Uggah urged the Malaysian Pepper Board to draw a proposal to help pepper farmers if the commodity suffered a drop in prices.
He said the board could create a social safety net for farmers by buying pepper from them or provide subsidy when there is an over supply of the commodity in the market.
He cited the mechanism to help rubber smallholders as an example.
At the event, the National Farmers’ Organisation (Nafas) presented RM50,000 to its Sarawak counterpart and RM84,000 to the 28 farmers’ organisation branches across the state.
Nafas also presented RM20,000 to PeladangNita Sarawak.