Sarawak seeks RM1bil from the Federal Government for rice irrigation, says Abang Johari

Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg (second right) looking at local food products at an exhibition booth at the regional conference on agrobiodiversity conservation in Kuching. At right is state Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi. - ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

KUCHING: Sarawak is seeking financial assistance from the Federal Government for rice irrigation in the Stumbin, Lingga, and Tanjung Bijat areas, says Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg.

The Premier said about RM1bil was needed to irrigate 10,000 hectares of rice production, which Sarawak was developing in the area.

He said the state government was ready to match any funding from Putrajaya on a one-to-one basis, adding that he had discussed the matter with federal Agriculture and Food Security Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu.

"I requested, if possible, for the Federal Government to chip in. Because of the amount, he said he has to refer to the Prime Minister, who is also the Finance Minister.

"We are still following up on this. But we are ready to give one-to-one. If you give RM500mil, we give RM500mil," Abang Johari told reporters after opening a regional conference on agrobiodiversity conservation here on Tuesday (June 11).

The Premier said a substantial investment was needed because of the size of the area involved.

He also said the state government was looking into using technology to increase rice production.

"Our target from 10,000 hectares is about 240,000 metric tons of rice. If we have sufficient production, we will not need to import rice.

"The investment is high, but we have to do it for food security," he said.

In his speech earlier, Abang Johari said the state government would allocate RM500mil for rice irrigation next year and a further RM500mil in 2026.

He said the state also planned to develop more rice production areas in Limbang and Lawas.

"In the future, we may be able to produce 400,000 to 500,000 metric tons of rice a year.

"Sarawak will then be self-sufficient in rice, and any surplus can be exported," he said.

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