Focus on food self-sufficiency

THE Government needs to focus more on food production and sustainability to reduce dependency on food imports, said Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tzin.

Sim said that in 2017, the country recorded imports worth RM51.3bil, with food taking up a big portion.

“Food items such as livestock, dairy products, fish and fruits make up the bulk of our agriculture and agro-based imports.

“We spent RM480mil on apples, RM345mil on oranges, RM204mil on coconuts and RM16mil on pineapples.

“A total of RM462mil worth of vegetables and RM244mil worth of chillies were imported that year, ” he said when opening an urban farm at his Bayan Baru service centre in Jalan Sungai Dua, Penang, recently.

Vegetables planted at the farm include brinjal, cucumber, spinach and six types of pineapples.

Sim, who is also Bayan Baru MP, said that lack of land for agro-based crops leading to low supply was among the reasons for food price hikes.

“We have only about eight million hectares of agricultural land, of which almost seven million hectares are being used for oil palm.

“Land for agro-based crops is less than a million hectares.

“By 2050, it is estimated that the world population will reach nine billion, and we will need more land for food production, ” said Sim, who added that among the steps taken to address the food shortage and increasing prices was converting more land for agriculture use and cutting out the middlemen in the trade process.

“We are also planning to introduce auction centres for food produce to be sold directly to consumers.

“The use of technology for online trade will increase efficiency and reach, thus reducing costs, ” he said.

Malaysia Social Development Foundation chief executive officer Sumathi Selvam, who was present, said poverty in city areas could be reduced through urban farming.

“Households need small investments in the agriculture business to generate an income.

“Not only is this cost-saving but vegetables produced from an urban farm will be healthier to consume as the usage of pesticides can be cut down, ” she said.

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