KEPALA BATAS: If innovative methods are used in padi planting, they can yield a bountiful harvest and pull farmers out of the poverty line, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The Prime Minister said the countrys average production of between 4.5 and five tonnes per hectare was still very low and this was forcing the country to still be dependent on imported rice.
He said there was a need to step up production of padi-related products, such as poultry feed and herbal medicine.
Padi farming is an economic activity that can bring us wealth if we apply the right and innovate methods and if we take the job seriously, he said when launching the MRQ74 padi variety at the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (Mardi) Seberang Prai station here yesterday.
I do not wish to see farmers living below the poverty line, as they are producing our staple food, said Abdullah, adding that the Government would continue to help farmers with subsidies.
The Prime Minister threw a challenge to farmers nationwide to produce more than 11 tonnes of padi per hectare.
If farmers in Sekinchan, Selangor, can harvest 11 tonnes of padi per hectare, I do not see why farmers elsewhere cannot produce a minimum eight tonnes per hectare.
If our padi yields can be increased, we can reduce rice imports and allow our farmers to derive better incomes, he said.
Abdullah said rice would continue to be a controlled item to make it affordable for low-income earners.
The Prime Minister later witnessed two signing ceremonies, involving Mardi and Hipotech Sdn Bhd for the production of zeolite fertilisers and between Mardi and the Kangkong Area Farming Association of Kelantan for the production of MRQ74 padi, which Abdullah named Mas Wangi.
The Mas Wangi is Mardis 34th padi variety produced since 1971.
According to Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who was present at the event, the Mas Wangi is a high quality padi variety equivalent to the Siamese fragrant rice variety.
The Mas Wangi is fragrant, non-sticky and can be harvested on an average of four to five tonnes per hectare.
It is resistant to common padi-related diseases, he said.
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