KUCHING: Sarawak is looking into ways to increase padi production to boost its rice self-sufficiency level, says Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.
The Sarawak Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Minister said a meeting with Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg would be held on Tuesday (Oct 3) to find the best solutions and long-term plans to improve padi production and rice supply.
He said the state’s self-sufficiency rate for rice was still low at about 36%.
"This means we have to import around 60% of rice to cater for our needs, and we want to reduce that deficit,” he told a press conference here Tuesday.
Dr Rundi said the price of imported rice had increased recently because of challenges like bad weather conditions faced by major suppliers of rice like India and China.
"These countries also have huge populations to feed so it is understandable why they try to control exports, pushing prices higher,” he said.
He said padi production in Sarawak had been decreasing over the years as people opted for other crops and commodities like palm oil.
"We cannot control farmers from moving into other crops or commodities. We must explain to them that there are many other high-value crops which are easier to take care of like chillies and melon. This will also help in our food security aspect,” he added.
On Sept 30, it was reported that the Rural and Regional Development Ministry was assessing land in Kota Belud, Sabah and Sri Aman, Sarawak to determine its suitability for implementing padi cultivation projects.
Deputy Minister Datuk Rubiah Wang said such efforts were expected to improve the local agro-food sector and strengthen national food security. - Bernama