Lack of youth in agriculture may cause food crisis

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia could be bracing for a food crisis if the younger generation does not participate in the agriculture and agro-based industry.

This is because only 15% of the 800,000 members of the Farmers Organisation Authority are aged below 40 years old, said deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman.

He said 45% of FOA members are aged 60 years and above.

Tajuddin, however, gave an assurance that there was no food crisis in the country yet.

“It (agriculture and agro-based industry) is like a car. If you don’t have the engine, the car cannot move. The engine for this industry is the people,” Tajuddin said yesterday when he was asked if the lack of young people in the industry could lead to a food crisis.

He had earlier launched a campaign to rejuvenate the FOA in an effort to increase the participation of young people in the agriculture and agro-based industry.

The FOA targets to increase the participation of youth to 30% by the year 2020.

Tajuddin said the lack of interest among the younger generation was the reason for their low participation in the sector.

He said they should realise that the agro-based industry could be economically rewarding.

“Those who want to makan gaji (salaried workers) as factory workers, I urge you to become an entrepreneur in the agriculture industry. This is more lucrative.

“There needs to be a change in mentality among the younger generation,” he said.

He also urged commercial banks to provide loans for young entrepreneurs who wanted to get involved in agriculture.

“Bank Negara Malaysia should ask commercial banks to have a quota where a certain percentage of their loans should be allocated for the agriculture sector.

“You cannot just depend on Agrobank to provide loans,” he added.

Tajuddin said Malaysia was dependent on food imports. He said in 2014, at least RM18bil was spent on items such as rice, meat, vegetables, fruits and animal feed.

The cost of importing such goods, he added, also shot up by 30% due to currency depreciation.

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