GOING round the supermarkets in Kuching you tend to notice one thing in the rice section — most of it is imported.
That’s because at present, 70 per cent of rice consumed in Sarawak is grown outside the State!
Well Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) is working to reduce this to 30 to 40 per cent by 2020.
So how will we manage to produce 60 to 70 per cent of our own rice within eight years?
Well Bernas aims to bring new rice planting techniques to the State and at the same time develop existing traditional rice planted in Sarawak.
A model farm has already been set up in Batang Lupar, Sarawak.
The 77-hectare site is part of the Entry Point Project (EPP) 11 to start large-scale rice production in the state.
Once completed, the project will involve 5,100 hectares of rice plantations by 2020.
The fields are expected to produce around four metric tonnes per hectare per season.
On Feb 17, the fields were harvested for the first time and the results were promising.
The indications are that Batang Lupar could be even more lucrative than the harvest from Malaysia’s rice bowl state of Kedah.
The same variant of rice in Kedah being planted in Batang Lupar — the MR219 — can be harvested in 115 days if there is enough sunlight and would allow for two harvests per year.
Apparently a total of 5,700 families living in 46 longhouses would benefit from the project.
Sadly, Bernas initially faced resistance from local farmers, but thankfully those villagers have now accepted modern mechanised farming techniques and are benefiting tremendously from the efforts.
It’s great to know that Bernas is also aiming to commercially develop Sarawak’s traditional varieties of rice such as Bario, Biris, Bajong, Beras Hitam and Beras Merah.
Real transformation for a secure future for Sarawakians and not just passing change.
The New Straits Times report:
Sarawak going very big on rice
A NEW initiative is under way to turn Sarawak into a rice bowl state just like Kedah.
A pilot project led by Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas) aims to bring new rice planting techniques to the state and at the same time develop existing traditional rice planted there.
Currently, 70 per cent of rice consumed in Sarawak is imported.
Beras Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Mohd Kamaluddin Mohd Effendie, however, said that by 2020, the state would produce 60 to 70 per cent of its own rice.
“The government wants to increase the production of rice in the state to improve food security in the country,” he said.
A crucial driving force for the project is the fact that a few years ago, the country went through a food crisis that saw rice prices spiralling upwards.
Recently, Bernas set up a model farm in Batang Lupar, Sarawak. The 77ha site is part of Entry Point Project (EPP) 11 to start large-scale rice production in the state.
Once completed, the project will see 5,100ha of rice plantations by 2020, with a total expenditure of RM1 billion.
Kamaluddin said that when the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) started modern rice farming in Kedah in 1972, the costs were equally high.
“However, it is worth it to ensure food security. Many exporting countries in the event of crises do not want to sell rice.
“Even if they do, the prices will be high,” he said.
Once the project is completed in 2020, the fields will produce somewhere in the region of four metric tonnes per hectare per season. The inaugural harvest on Feb 17 was promising, and looks to be even more lucrative than in Kedah.
The same variant of rice in Kedah is being planted in Batang Lupar — the MR219, which can be harvested in 115 days when exposed to favourable sunlight.
This variant of rice will allow two harvests per year.
The project has been fast forwarded to deliver quick results.
A total of 5,700 families living in 46 longhouses will be affected by the project.
Bernas mobilised machinery in mid-August last year on the pilot project.
It started planting 15ha of MR219 on Nov 1. It faced challenges, one of which was an ageing workforce. It was difficult finding youth to till the soil.
As such, emphasis was put on mechanisation to draw in the youth.
Kamaluddin said initially, it was a challenge getting the farmers to cooperate.
Some villagers were reluctant to join because they feared losing their land.
The sceptics were soon convinced with Bernas’ modern farming techniques.
“The major issue was a human one,” he added. “The whole project involves a transformation of mindset,” he said.
The farmers had planted traditional variants of rice with traditional methods, and were now finally being introduced to modern farming techniques.
Kamaluddin said the single biggest issue that they faced was land amalgamation.
“However, we managed to convince them that the farmers would not lose the rights to their lands, although the land plots are rearranged so that the fields could be irrigated twice a year,” he said.
In the end, the rural community will benefit tremendously from the project.
Kamaluddin added that the farmers’ acceptance of these changes were crucial to the success of the project.
“We are proud that they are willing to accept the challenge and learn.”
Besides the MR219 variant, Bernas is also aiming to commercially develop other traditional types of rice.
Sarawak has many traditional varieties of rice. Traditional rice has been planted for thousands of years.
Bernas aims to identify potential variants for commercialisation.
Among them are Bario, Biris, Bajong, Beras Hitam and Beras Merah which are currently still being planted using traditional methods by the locals.
“In order to achieve economies of scale — we will change the way the rice is planted. Now, in one hectare, there are five to six types of rice being planted.
“We will change this to 20 to 50ha per type,” said Kamaluddin.