ROMPIN: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has proposed an amalgamation of Felda settlers’ land for greater wealth and benefits.
The Prime Minister said settlers would contribute their land, which when merged must be managed by professional estate managers.
“That way, I am confident the amalgamated land can produce higher yields. The profits will then be divided accordingly among the settlers who contributed their land,” he told reporters after attending the Felda Settlers’ Day celebration at Felda Selancar 3 here yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said part of the combined land could also be allocated for other crops.
“We want to avoid reliance on a single crop. Anything we plant must be mixed crops, not only just vegetables or melons.
“If there is diversity over a large area, not only can we fulfil the local but foreign demand as well,” he said, adding that the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry would advise on what crops would be suitable.
However, Dr Mahathir admitted that it would be difficult to change settlers’ behaviour as many of them were now senior citizens and were used to doing things the old way.
“We used to give management of the land to the settlers but they can’t adjust their way of life. Today, farming vegetables and fruits can give better returns than palm oil or rubber but they are still sticking to the old crops.
“Perhaps, of a 2,000-acre piece of land, 200 acres can be used for other crops while the rest is planted with oil palm,” he said.
In his speech, Dr Mahathir said settlers would face problems when the price of palm oil dropped due to their over-reliance on a single crop.
He said settlers would then ask for subsidies unlike the large estates which were managed professionally.
“Even when you have 10 acres of land and have good crops, it will not give as good as the returns of 10,000 acres of land.
“That is why settlers always suffer when the price of rubber or palm oil drops,” he said.
During the event, Dr Mahathir also launched the Settlers Development Programme to help increase their income.
The programme was part of a comprehensive action plan based on smart farming and innovative downstream activities.
To implement the programme, the government had approved RM1bil in grant allocations that would be disbursed in stages over four years.
Also present were Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, Felda chairman Tan Sri Mohd Bakke Salleh and Felda director-general Datuk Dr Othman Omar.
Azmin said Felda must no longer be used as a tool by politicians.
“Unfortunately, over the past years, we have politicians who played politics until the settlers became victims and were burdened with major problems.
“Today, I stand before you to tell you not to let politicians use Felda settlers any longer for their political interests,” he said.