KUCHING: Sarawak’s efforts to get Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) to embark on large-scale rubber cultivation on native customary rights (NCR) land has been hampered by its restrictive ordinance.
The ordinance requires Risda to plant only on titled land, according to state Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing.
Sarawak has some 1.5 million ha of NCR land, which are largely without title as they have not been surveyed.
“I was given to understand that Risda is not coming in as it wants only titled land.
“I can assure Risda that NCR land is recognised by the state government under the state Land Code. There is no reason for federal agencies not to give the same recognition,” Masing told The Star.
He said to resolve the predicament, Risda could change its ordinance to accommodate the needs of Sarawak.
“There is limited land in Peninsular Malaysia for large-scale rubber planting, Sarawak has vast land but it lacks funding which Risda can help.”
Last year, Risda received a budget of RM398mil - the biggest ever - from the Federal Government to finance replanting and planting nationwide. The agency plans to replant 34,310ha and establish another 3,000ha new rubber estates.
Masing said about 40% of NCR land in the interior which was not suitable for oil palm cultivation could be opened up for rubber estates or cultivation of other crops under his ministry.
“Rubber is socially and culturally friendly to the natives. Old rubber trees could be sold as timber for other uses,” he added.
In the peninsula, rubberwood is a key raw material for furniture making .
In Kapit division, large-scale rubber planting projects are being implemented.
Masing said the on-going perimeter survey of NCR land had to be speeded up to make more titled land available for large-scale agricultural development. The Federal Government allocated RM20mil in 2010 to finance the survey.
“We should not only look at NCR land development in ringgit and sen. Once developed, NCR land provides security to the owners and accessibility (into the rural areas and interior),” he added.