PASIR SALAK: The government is looking to increase rice production by developing more padi fields in Sabah and Sarawak, says Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.
The Agriculture and Food Security Minister said the Federal Government has been discussing the matter with the Sabah government to be carried out in the near future.
This, he said, was part of the long-term plan to ensure sufficient and balanced supply throughout the country to overcome shortages.
"Our country is not big like the United States or China. If there is a flood in Arizona, it is not happening in Mississippi.
"The same goes for China. If one place is flooded, it will not impact another area," he told a press conference after a working visit to the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra) seed centre in Sungai Manik here on Friday (Sept 29).
"Rice-producing states like Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis and Terengganu are already experiencing the impact of El Nino," he added.
Mohamad said the main issue faced in Sabah was related to irrigation and it would cost billions of ringgit to overcome.
"But for (the sake of) food security, I feel we need to spend (this sum)," he said, adding that there were about 20,234ha of land in Sabah earmarked for growing paddy.
As for Sarawak, Mohamad said he had yet to travel there to meet with the state government.
"There's big potential there as Sarawak has vast tracts of land," he said, noting that the state's agriculture sector there was active and capable of producing large harvests.
"We need to find ways to address the rice shortage, or we will have issues if (the supply of) imported rice suddenly ceases," he said.