Budget 2023: Govt targets 324ha of idle land to help boost food security, says Tengku Zafrul

KUALA LUMPUR: The government will continue to strengthen food security so that it will no longer be dependent on imports in order to be resilient against any shocks in the future, says Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.

The Finance Minister said one of the initiatives was to increase food production by using abandoned land owned by the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra) and the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) with an area up to 324ha for food crops.

"To support sustainable agriculture efforts, RM86mil has been allocated to the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry for various initiatives, including the development of agrofood sustainability," he said when tabling Budget 2023 in the Dewan Rakyat Friday (Oct 7).

He said RM1bil in funds has been provided to raise the self-sufficiency level (SSL) via the Bank Negara Malaysia Agrofood Financing Scheme at a rate of 3.5% for agrofood entrepreneurs to improve productivity.

Apart from this, he said RM250mil had also been set aside for the Agrovest Investment Programme by Agrobank to fund agricultural start-ups using modern technology.

"An investment of RM200mil by Khazanah under the Dana Impak with a focus to increase the income and productivity of smallholders, the Digital Agtech programme under the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) will be expanded to 264 Area Farmers' Organisations nationwide with an allocation of RM20mil to train more smallholders to adapt to digital technologies," he said.

Also planned is the Keluarga Malaysia (Malaysian Family) Hardcore Poverty Eradication Programme, which will focus on the promotion of low SSL crops such as chilli, ginger and cabbage among selected households.

He said the tax incentive period for food production projects will be extended to the end of 2025 with the scope of incentives also expanded to include modern agricultural projects based on Controlled Environment Agriculture.

"An example is the indoor vertical farming concept developed by Dr Jayanthi (Desan), from the Boomgrow company, where vegetables are grown in modified cargo containers using lights with Internet of Things sensors and applying artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms," he said.

He said the government also plans to extend the tax incentive for companies with the BioNexus status for applications received until the end of 2024, and this will be improved with the income tax exemption on statutory income increased from 70% to 100%.

To drive productivity and improve efficiency through automation, especially in the agricultural sector, the government plans to give Accelerated Capital Allowance and 100% income tax exemption on capital expenditure.

This incentive, he said, is for the manufacturing, agriculture and services sectors including those related to medicine which adapt the elements of Industry 4.0 as well as entrepreneurs who implement the closed cage system. - Bernama

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