Padi farmers: Fix irrigation issues before channelling aid

KOTA BELUD: Padi farmers here are urging the government to resolve the issue of drainage and irrigation systems in the area first before channelling any aid to empower padi cultivation in the state.

According to padi farmers in the 7,000ha rice bowl area, the drainage and irrigation problems that have been going on for a long time often cause the fields to flood during the rainy season.

Johneysius Sinson, 41, from Kampung Tampasuk 1, who owns a 2.02ha farming plot, said he intended to use it for padi cultivation this year but was worried that the crop would be damaged due to irrigation problems in the area.

“I have not worked the land for padi planting for two years since the last crop was damaged by the floods.

“It is frustrating to see the crops damaged after toiling in the fields ... The government gives help but it is not worth what we should get.

“We are supposed to plant padi twice a year but due to the unpredictable weather, it is difficult to plant even once a year,” he said when met at his padi field here.

He believed that the flood problems in the padi farming area could be reduced with proper maintenance of the river and the irrigation system.

Hence, the government should look into the maintenance of the farming infrastructure first, he said as reported by Bernama.

Last Tuesday, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu announced that the ministry will implement the “Gelombang Padi” initiative, which outlines 12 programmes that could serve as a game-changer in the country’s padi and rice industries.

The programmes include introducing a new policy on the Certified Padi Seed Incentive programme; rehabilitating and developing soft soil padi land; strengthening the supply of agricultural inputs; and empowering the cultivation of hill padi in Sabah and Sarawak by providing provisions for the supply of agricultural inputs.

Another padi farmer, Main Gandilau, 63, from Kampung Tampasuk 2, said his 3.23ha padi field would be destroyed every time floods hit the area due to the poor drainage and irrigation system.

“It suffered huge losses then. When there is a flood, only some three acres (1.21ha) of the crop will not be affected.

“It is a big loss because one acre (0.4ha) can provide me 2,500kg of padi,” he said.

Tambatuon Village Development and Security Committee chairman Tambatuon Wolbote@Bott Saringan, 50, said the main irrigation system for the padi fields in the village was often damaged during major floods.

He hoped that the government could allocate funds for building concrete irrigation and drainage systems as they are more resistant and not easily damaged during floods.

He said Tambatuon Village had about 20.2ha of padi fields and was the only producer of organic rice or high-value fragrant rice.

“Now, we can only plant padi once a year.

“But if problems surrounding the irrigation system are resolved and the necessary assistance is provided to the farmers, I believe we can plant padi twice a year,” he said.

In 2020, padi farmers in the Kota Belud rice bowl area suffered at least RM29mil in losses when almost the entire padi field, covering about 7,000ha, was severely affected and damaged due to the floods.

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