Malaysia needs mass agricultural output

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ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia): Malaysia needs to go back to mass agricultural production, says Charles Santiago of the DAP.

Speaking on the issue of food security, Santiago said Malaysia needed to refocus on agriculture, as the sector had been neglected in favour of other sectors.

“In the past, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad pursued growth in the manufacturing and knowledge sectors at the expense of the agricultural sector.

“In the 1960s, we were a net exporter of rice, now we are a net importer.”

The Klang MP said at present, development in Malaysia was too urban-centric. He said rural areas needed to be developed more, especially for agricultural purposes.

“If we can produce enough for ourselves, it will help keep prices down, and this will help lower the cost of living for people.”

Earlier this year, it was reported that Malaysia had spent RM45.4 billion last year on fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables and meat imports from 120 countries.

The imports included common fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, banana, pineapple, onions, garlic, sweet potato, tomato and chilli.

In this respect, Santiago said the government must provide more support and incentives to local farmers, so they could break the monopoly of the agricultural sector of several corporations which dominate the market.

“Essentially, this is the problem with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), as it empowers corporations.”

In January, Alor Setar MP Gooi Hsiao Leung also voiced concern that Malaysia could lose national control of its food industry through the TPPA.

He had said under the TPPA, measures in place to protect the local rice industry may be viewed as trade restrictions violating the TPPA and Malaysia could be forced to remove them.