Hot concern over cold snap

Inclement weather: A resident passing a row of fishing boats moored at the beach in Pantai Baru, Kelantan, as most local fishermen stay away from the sea during the monsoon season. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: The recent dip in temperatures experienced in some states has affected the yield and quality of agricultural produce to an extent, but authorities say they are watching the situation closely to ensure the food chain is preserved – while keeping profiteering at bay.

Last December, the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) predicted that the nation’s “winter” would last until February, with temperatures dipping to 22°C on some days.

In mid-January, Sik in Kedah experienced temperatures of 18°C to 19°C for a few days.

Checks with MetMalaysia showed that the current cloudy climate was attributed to the third monsoon surge of the north-east monsoon which began on Jan 19.

“It has not reached extreme levels yet.

“The current cold weather is expected to be temporary, as such weather conditions are common at the beginning of the year during the north-east monsoon.

“The fourth monsoon surge began on Jan 27 and will last until Feb 4.

“Furthermore, the current cold climate is still within predictions and has shown no signs of turning into an extreme weather event, so it is not expected to severely affect the country’s agricultural sector in the long run,” said a MetMalaysia spokesman when contacted yesterday.

Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad said the ministry constantly monitors changes in the weather.

“We are looking at ways to have a more dynamic system in place to warn stakeholders,” said Nik Nazmi when asked if farmers are warned of sudden changes.

Domestic Trade and Cost of Living Minister Datuk Seri Salahuddin Ayub said although food production comes under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry, his ministry has been proactive.

“As our main focus would be to ensure consumers are not burdened while food producers are still able to profit without profiteering, we have put in place steps to ensure that any consequence to the price of food will be mitigated.

“We will be monitoring the food chain closely in the next three months, especially to curb profiteering,” said Salahuddin, adding that the produce grown now will only be harvested in the next few months.

Agriculture and Food Security Ministry secretary-general Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali said weather patterns affect yield and quality, not only for padi, but also other crops.

For example, in Perlis, the prized Harumanis mango would be affected as it is usually warmer between January and March.

“We have to adapt the agriculture industry to be resilient against weather changes by providing better irrigation infrastructure as well as looking at fertiliser formulation and schedules,” said Lokman.

He added that the fertiliser blend has to be tailored to suit the changes, should temperatures drop with heavier rainfall.

As for the poultry industry, Lokman urged farms to go for fully enclosed systems, such as barns with climate control.

“It is not a knee-jerk solution as the Agriculture and Food Security Ministry has ongoing research with various agencies and countries for more weather-resilient seeds and crops,” he said.

Nevertheless, Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Agriculture Faculty dean Prof Dr Abdul Shukor Juraimi said commonly grown tropical crops are usually unaffected as long as temperatures do not drop below 20°C for extended periods.

“The real danger of cold weather is the high humidity and constant dark skies as these allow fungus and mould to grow,” he said.

Statistics Department chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said adverse weather conditions, particularly in major growing areas, would affect the supply of vegetables and seafood.

“The worsening flood situation in certain areas affected the output of vegetable products, while the turbulent seas influenced the productivity process in the sea.

“The seasonally lower output due to the monsoon season may lift the prices higher at the consumer level,” he added.

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