KUCHING: Sarawak is taking steps to improve the quality of traditional or heirloom rice varieties, which fetch better prices locally and internationally, says Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi.
The state Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Minister said these varieties could be sold at prices based on market demand, hence contributing to a higher income for farmers, as they were not subject to the Paddy and Rice Act.
"My ministry will continue to support the growth of Sarawak's premium traditional paddy varieties by continuously improving the quality of paddy seeds," he told the Sarawak Legislative Assembly in his winding-up speech on Tuesday (Nov 28).
Dr Rundi said the state Agriculture Department was conducting purification processes of selected paddy varieties including Bario Sederhana and Bario Halus to obtain excellent seed quality.
He said the department was also collaborating with public and private institutions to strengthen research and development initiatives to enhance the quality of Sarawak's heirloom paddy seeds.
In this connection, he said, Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu campus was conducting research purification on Biris paddy under the paddy transformation project at Gedong.
Dr Rundi also said the Agriculture Department was promoting farming best practices among paddy farmers, including Malaysia Good Agricultural Practices (myGAP) and Malaysian Organic Certification Scheme (myOrganic).
"These certifications acknowledge farms that adopt good agricultural practices which can enhance the marketability of Sarawak's heirloom rice.
"To date, 92 paddy farmers have been certified under myGAP," he said.
On the recent increase in the price of rice, Dr Rundi said the Federal Government had approved a rice subsidy of RM950 per tonne for the price of imported white rice.
Through this measure, which took effect in Sarawak on Oct 5, he said the price of imported white rice in the state was set at RM31 for 10kg.