Sarawak aims to boost rice output

KUCHING, Oct 3: Sarawak is looking into ways to increase padi production to boost its rice self-sufficiency level, said state Minister for Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

He said a meeting with Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg would be held today to find the best solutions and long-term plans to improve padi production and rice supply.

He said the state’s self-sufficiency rate for rice was still low at about 36 per cent.

“This means we have to import around 60 per cent of rice to cater for our needs, and we want to reduce that deficit,” he told a press conference here today.

Dr Rundi said the price of imported rice had increased recently because of challenges like bad weather conditions faced by major suppliers of rice like India and China. 

“These countries also have huge populations to feed so it is understandable why they try to control exports, pushing prices higher,” he said.

He said padi production in Sarawak had been decreasing over the years as people opted for other crops and commodities like palm oil.

“We cannot control farmers from moving into other crops or commodities. We must explain to them that there are many other high-value crops which are easier to take care of like chillies and melon. This will also help in our food security aspect,” he added.

On Sept 30, it was reported that the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development was assessing land in Kota Belud, Sabah and Sri Aman, Sarawak to determine its suitability for implementing padi cultivation projects.

Deputy Minister Datuk Rubiah Wang said such efforts were expected to improve the local agro-food sector and strengthen national food security.