PETALING JAYA: More than 130 third-generation farmers in Kanthan, Perak have been told by the Perak State Development Corporation (PKNP) to vacate over 1,000 acres of land that they have been toiling on for more than six decades, according to Parti Sosialis Malaysia chairman Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj.
He said the move could deal a potential blow to the country’s food security as the land is the single largest vegetable-producing region in the state, and could lead to more price increases at a time when vegetable prices are soaring.
The Kanthan area currently produces around 50 to 60 tonnes of produce a day, he told FMT.
Jeyakumar said he was concerned about the impact that the eviction would have on vegetable prices, one of the hottest topics in the country of late. The price of vegetables such as pak choy has surged by 200%.
He said the land was given to PKNP by the Perak state government more than 10 years ago, although the farmers have been working on the land for more than 60 years.
On Dec 2, the farmers were issued letters by PKNP informing them they were occupying land which did not belong to them. They were ordered to move out within 30 days, failing which legal action would be taken.
Jeyakumar, who was Sungai Siput MP from 2013 to 2018, said he believed the land was to be used for residential and industrial development. He added that certain portions have already been sold to private developers.
“We are appealing to the state government to cancel the development in the area. We need food security more,” he said.
In a video he recorded after meeting 50 of the farmers at the land on Saturday, during which they agreed to file a counterclaim in court, Jeyakumar highlighted the current high prices of vegetables and stressed the importance of self-sufficiency.
“It’s important that we have a supply of food produced in the country. But if we evict farmers, where will we get food from?” he asked. “If the government wants to collect rent, that’s not a problem. But to evict the farmers and change the land status (from agricultural) to residential and industrial, it’s not a smart idea.”
Althought the farmers were not legal owners of the land, which their grandparents had first converted to farms, Jeyakumar said they were willing to pay rent. They had previously applied for temporary occupation licences but to no avail.
Pushing for existing vegetable farming areas in Perak to be gazetted as permanent food production areas, he also called for farmers cultivating such land to be given leases of 10 to 20 years with the proviso that they must use the land to plant food crops.
FMT has sought a response from PKNP.