Agro-sector earmarked for enhancement

CYBERJAYA: It is high time for the agriculture and food industry in Malaysia to be developed as a modern, competitive and sophisticated sector, says Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee.

The Agriculture and Food Industries Minister said technology and digitalisation in farming will not only add value to this sector but also improve the country’s food security.

“Malaysia has performed well in the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) and we are placed at 43 out of 113 countries.

“However, we must continue to take new approaches to improve the country’s position in the GFSI.

“Therefore, it is high time for food production to be developed as a modern, competitive and commercial sector.

“Technology like the usage of Drones, Intelligent Agricultural Systems, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, agro robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) that can increase agricultural income needs to be fully utilised, ” said Ronald.

The minister was speaking at the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and CIMB Islamic Bank Berhad.

The MOU is on an extensive micro-financing programme with an allocation of RM10mil as an initial funding package to catalyse Digital Agriculture Technology (Digital Agtech) in Malaysia.

This allocation may be increased to RM25mil as the programme progresses.

The facility will lower the access barrier for Malaysian farmers to embark on the digitalisation journey and spur the growth of the agriculture sector.

Ronald said the wide usage of Digital AgTech will also drive more youths into the sector.

“The MDEC and CIMB Islamic collaboration will provide another growth avenue for farmers as they embrace the digital economy and gain even more relevance in this new era of disruption.

“It will also serve to encourage more youngsters to till this field and form the next crop of Malaysia’s agricultural industry.

“The support enables farmers to go digital and further reinforce the potential opportunities that the agriculture sector offers, especially with talent up-skilling and digital growth, ” he said.

Also present to witness the signing ceremony with Ronald was Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

The signatories were MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri and CIMB Islamic chief executive officer Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff.

Saifuddin said the collaboration is the next step to digitally transform the agriculture sector on a national level.

“For 2020, going digital has been a major focus for businesses and this includes the agriculture sector.

“This is a significant milestone for both MDEC and CIMB Islamic as they introduce and provide access to next-gen technologies like IoT, AI and Big Data Analytics to farmers, bringing the agro-sector into the digital realm.

“This is in line with the industry’s 30% expected growth rate for productivity, ” said Saifuddin.

The eLadang programme, which is a key Digital AgTech initiative by MDEC, had successfully benefitted 548 participants as of December 2019.

Of this, 78 farmers have utilised digital farming technology, leading to a 20% increase in productivity and 30% income increment as well as a reduction in operating cost by 30%

Three digital labs were also formed to train, certify and drive digital technology adoption in farming.

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