I AGREE with Dr Collin Abraham that the proposed increase in funds for the agricultural sector does not necessarily mean the farmers will benefit from the increased allocation, “Not enough to just fund the agro sector” (The Star, Oct 4).
One of the main problems in the development and modernisation of our smallholders’ farming sector is the land tenure system.
As Dr Abraham has pointed out, absentee landlords and uneconomic holdings appear to be the main obstacle for the modernisation of our padi farming and other smallholder crops.
While we must admit that the Government has been quite successful in the development of smallholder tree crops such as rubber, oil palm and cocoa through organisations such as Felda, the Government has neglected the development of high-value short-term crops such as vegetable and flower farms.
Cameron Highlands is famous for the production of various types of vegetables, strawberries and cut flowers, both for local consumption and export.
But the farmers there have been getting negligible assistance from the Government.
Most of the farmers do not own land. In fact, over the past many years, they have been farming their land on a year-to-year lease from the state government or what is commonly known as TOL. This means they have no security over their land and they cannot charge their land to borrow money for the modernisation of their farms.
The development of such a farm would cost a lot of money. In fact, I was told by a farmer that it costs RM100,000 to develop an acre of flower farm from jungle land, a TOL land.
Since the farms there are on TOL, the farmers do not enjoy public infrastructure such as roads, drainage and water supply. They have to build and maintain their own roads and drainage system and source their own water supply through channelling of mountain streams.
Yet, despite all these obstacles, the farmers are not only supplying their production locally, but also to the export market.
Our chrysanthemum flowers are being exported to Thailand and trial shipments have also been sent to Japan.
We hope that under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the Government will review the land ownership and tenure system for small farmers such as those in Cameron Highlands.
The provision of essential infrastructure and other assistance to these farmers would definitely help boost the export of high-value crops overseas.
POH KOK KIAN
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
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