Mindsets must change over agriculture


ULAANBAATAR: Governments and people must change their mindsets towards agriculture, especially that it is “backward”.

This is to ensure better food sovereignty and to disperse economic risks, said Global University for Sustainability (Global U) founding member Sit Tsui.

Speaking to FMT at the 11th Asia-Europe People’s Forum, Sit said the perception in many countries was that agriculture was a “backward” sector.

Sit’s Global U is a network of organisations working towards greater sustainability.

The associate professor from Southwest University in China, said because of this, many young people preferred to shift to urban areas to work in other sectors, such as manufacturing or the oil and gas sector, which were considered as a “step up”.

“However, problems arise when these industries collapse or move to other countries where costs are lower. This leads to unemployment.”

Furthermore, she said, neglecting the agricultural sector in favour of other industries had caused many countries to become dependent on imported food, and this included Malaysia.

“For many of these countries, their level of self-sufficiency is low because they tend to focus all their efforts on one or two industries.”

She said there were a number of countries which were not self-sufficient when it came to staple food, such as rice or wheat, and spend a lot of money on importing such food.

Ideally, Sit said a country should be at least 50 per cent self-sufficient, especially when it comes to staple foods.

She said it was time for governments to strengthen their respective agricultural sectors, and this could be done through incentives or support.

“In China, agricultural land cannot be sold in the market. It is owned by the state and developed by the people or leased out to companies,” she said, adding this was one way to help support the sector.

Aside from government support, Sit said it was important that the people themselves changed their mindsets about the industry being backwards.

In 2014, the agriculture sector accounted for 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP). Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, the GDP for agriculture is projected to achieve RM93.2 billion.

Putrajaya has stated in the past that it aims to increase the country’s self-sufficiency level.