KUCHING: The state is diversifying its agriculture industry by helping farmers plant more types of commercial crops to avoid over reliance on palm oil.
Among the crops the state is encouraging farmers to cultivate commercially are pineapples, coconuts, pepper, rubber and durians.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy told The Borneo Post this yesterday.
“As we are facing an increasingly volatile global economy, we must position ourselves so that we would be able to face any price fluctuations of crops. So we need to diversify so that our farmers will have a more stable income.”
On oil palm, Uggah revealed that his ministry would come up with a master plan soon to expand the cultivation of the crop. Currently, some 1.4 million hectares are planted with oil palms.
“We still have plenty of land to expand for oil palms but we need to sit down with all the stakeholders on our next course of action. That’s why we need a master plan,” he said.
On the same issue, Uggah who was a former Federal Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities disclosed that the Federal Government through the Malaysia Palm oil Board (MPOB) and Malaysia Palm Oil Council (MPOC) are assisting the palm oil industry to counter campaigns by aggressive European NGOs against the commodity.
“We have these bodies to assist the government as well as the farmers in telling the market that our palm oil is not destructive to the environment and that we have been observing good agricultural practices,” he pointed out.
He also revealed that the Malaysian palm oil industry had both the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification and the Malaysian Standard on Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification (MSPO) certification as proofs that the country’s palm oil industry was sustainable and not destructive to the environment.
Uggah reiterated that one of the major challenges of the oil palm industry was that NGOs in Europe had been “shifting their goal posts all the time”.
“That’s one of the reasons we need to diversify our crops and, in turn, it will help diversify the income of our farmers.
In that sense, we must adopt a holistic approach that’s not just diversifying on crops alone but on the whole agriculture activities including diversifying into livestock, fish rearing and so on,” he added.