Lack of suitable land and funds among factors, says
SABAH will fall short by 15 per cent from its initial target of 60 per cent self-sufficiency for paddy production targeted to be met within two years time. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Yahya Hussin said there had been several factors that hindered the Government from meeting the target. Disclosing the shortage of suitable land, the lack of funds, proper drainage and irrigation as among the contributing factors, Yahya, who is also the Agriculture and Food Industry Minister, however stressed that the Government will do its level best to ensure that there is sufficient supply of food to meet the demand. Currently, he said the State is producing 30 per cent of the country’s overall rice production. “The least we could meet is 45 per cent self- sufficiency for paddy production by 2010. We may have abundant idle land but many of these land are developed for other purposes such as housing or road projects,” he said. These rapid developments have somehow affected the natural flow of drainage and irrigation. Therefore, the Government has no choice but to find a solution to the problem, Yahya added. “We are also faced with more problems when some farmers are unwilling to sacrifice some of their land for drainage and irrigation projects, fearing that their farming areas will be affected,” he explained. He stressed that in most cases, a new problem emerges before the Government could find a suitable solution to the previous one. Speaking to the media after receiving a delegation of eight members from the Indonesian Higher Learning Alumni Association led by Sabah President cum Liaison Chief Awang Rahim Awang Ramli, Yahya added building man-made drainage and irrigation was also costly. But he explained that it was considered as a ‘cheap investment’ when taking into consideration what it could do for the future generation. “If we invest today, we may not be able to have total benefit of our investment but our children and grandchildren will. The infrastructure is all ready for them and in the long run, they will be the ones to enjoy our sacrifices,” he said. Describing rice as a ‘rich man’s food’, Yahya called on the private sector to work closely with the Government to overcome the current global food crisis. “We may even consider identifying suitable land and develop it strict1y for agriculture or paddy for that matter. It is being done in developed countries where millions of hectares of land are being developed solely for food production. “We will not allow any kind of development such as housing projects on these land. That way, I believe we will be able to maintain food supply for our people,” he said. Meanwhile, at the courtesy call yesterday, Yahya was briefed on the Association’s project which includes a talk by Indonesia’s rector, Dr H Herry Suhardiyanto, who will be talking on global food crisis at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah at l0am on May 10 and a seminar on education opportunities in Indonesia at 2pm on the same day at the Yayasan Sabah’s Tun Hamdan theater hail.