Assemblymen plea for help for farmers affected by poor harvest

(From left) Ahmad Mustain, Ng and Rozana speaking on behalf of padi farmers in their constituencies of Sabak, Sekinchan and Permatang respectively at the press conference. — KK SHAM/The Star

THREE assemblymen representing Selangor’s rice bowl constituencies are appealing to the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry and its minister to assist padi farmers badly affected by poor quality harvest.

“Padi farmers have reported that this season’s harvest was particularly bad.

“One padi farmer who could previously harvest eight to 10 tonnes in a season was only able to harvest five to six tonnes this time,” said Ng Suee Lim (PH-Sekinchan).

“This means that a person who previously earned about RM13,300 for an eight-tonne harvest, only gets half of that amount now.

“As padi is harvested twice a year, whatever they earn in one season has to stretch for about six months.

“That amount is not enough for them to meet their financial commitments as well as pay for fertiliser and other materials,” he added.

Ng, along with Rozana Zainal Abidin (PH-Permatang) and Ahmad Mustain Othman (PH-Sabak), spoke at a press conference on the sidelines of the Selangor State Assembly sitting in Shah Alam.

They estimated that about 10,000 farmers in their three constituencies were affected.

“Besides bad weather and plant diseases, the bad harvest has been attributed to poor padi seed quality,” said Ng.

“The farmers previously used MR 219 padi seed that offered stable yields but the harvest was significantly lower after they switched to the ones recommended by Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), such as MR 307, 303, 297 and CL2.

“The padi quality grade and ‘potongan beras basah’ deduction of more than 20% is also a burden.

“We are appealing to Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee to reduce the rate to 17%,” he said, adding that the deduction was based on the estimated water content in the padi to calculate a nett harvest.

The three assemblymen also appealed to Ronald to give affected padi farmers one-off financial aid of RM2,000.

Rozana said padi farmers could only grow padi on their land, as the government subsidy they received was specifically for that crop.

“Farmers who are desperate for better income can switch to vegetables or fruits but they won’t get any government aid if that happens.

“We hope that the Federal Government will offer assistance as we don’t want the padi fields in the ‘Rice Bowl of Selangor’ to disappear,” she said.

Ng also urged Ronald and the ministry to look at introducing a new method of channelling subsidies.

“The existing system channels subsidies through selected manufacturers, so farmers are forced to buy only specific padi seeds from those producers.

“Our suggestion is for the subsidies to be channelled directly into the farmers’ accounts, so they are free to choose and buy the seed they feel works for them best,” he added.

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