This is a joint press statement by PeSAWAH and the Malaysian Food Security and Sovereignty Forum of which SAM is a member of
The anchor companies appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture are actively campaigning to implement the Large Scale Smart Paddy Field Project (SBB) launched last February. In fact, government agencies are also involved in lobbying farmers to participate in the SBB scheme. On 31 July, lobster farming activities were also promoted in the paddy estate area to be implemented in an integrated manner with paddy cultivation. It was reported that 30% of the estate area will be used for shrimp farming while another 70% for paddy cultivation.
We take this latest development seriously as it is becoming increasingly clear that this SBB project will empower estate management to do whatever projects they want in areas they have leased or owned. Earlier, farmers were told that the SBB project would focus on improving paddy cultivation to increase yields. The target set for this project is to increase the Self Sufficient Level (SSL) of rice to 75% and increase yield production by 7 tons per hectare. Meanwhile, the average income of farmers will be increased to RM7000 per year per hectare. Less than a year after the project started, the estate changed its strategy by farming shrimp. Are the leading companies not confident in their own ‘smart’ paddy planting plans or from the beginning not interested in the agenda to increase local paddy production because it is easier and more profitable to import rice and raise shrimp?
The history of shrimp farming on a paddy field project in Kerpan, Kedah in the early 90s should teach us that when paddy land has been turned into a shrimp pond, it will bring other problems such as soil and water pollution. In fact, it is no longer suitable to be converted back to paddy fields when the lease period ends. Lessons from the Arowana fish farming project in the paddy fields around Tasik Bukit Merah should also be studied. The fish farming project uses a lot of water from the same source of the Bukit Merah Dam, causing paddy crops to often lack water. CAP and SAM investigation found that there was an incident of stealing water from the water channel and in recent developments, many Arowana ponds have been abandoned due to high maintenance costs and land taxes are no longer an agricultural category.
We also received a lot of feedback from farmers who stated that the SBB project would marginalise many young farmers who are renting a lot of paddy fields if the landlord is offered a higher rental payment by the company. In addition, the risk of entry of cheaper foreign workers will leave local workers jobless, existing tractor and machinery operators will lose customers and the risk of land being mortgaged for not being careful with the terms and conditions of the agreement. The land is also at risk of damage due to widespread pesticide usage, maximum use of soil’s nutrients without replacement or land use being converted to other activities.
As an alternative to this SBB project, we recommend that the concept of group farming led by local establishments, cooperatives or small and medium enterprises be implemented in areas that are derelict, less productive or still lagging in terms of infrastructure. The existing areas that farmers still work on should not be disturbed, the agencies should continue to help better in terms of capital support, infrastructure, seed and agricultural inputs market, and a fair paddy price system and paddy deduction rate. There are many farmers who have already managed to achieve a yield of up to 7 to 8 tons per hectare on their own efforts. Do not waste their efforts by implementing this SBB project but make them the best example.
Pertubuhan Persaudaran Pesawah Malaysia (PeSAWAH)
Malaysian Food Security and Sovereignty Forum (FKMM)
List of FKMM Members and other organisations supporting this statement:
- Agora Society
- Badan Bertindak Petani MADA
- GRASS Malaysia
- IDRIS Assoc.
- Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Melayu Bersatu Berhad (MTEM)
- Malaysian Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
- MiM Bersaudara
- Persatuan Agroekologi Malaysia (SRI-Mas)
- Persatuan Aktivis Sahabat Alam – KUASA
- Persatuan Pendidikan dan Kebajikan Jaringan Nelayan Pantai Malaysia (JARING)
- Persatuan Pengguna Pulau Pinang (CAP)
- Pertubuhan Rangkaian Pembangunan Kesinambungan Malaysia (SUSDEN Malaysia)
- Sahabat Alam Malaysia
- Third World Network
- Treat Every Environment Special Sdn Bhd (TrEES)
Tuan Haji Mohd Fuad Yaacob (PeSAWAH) – 0135080207
Nurfitri Amir Muhammad (FKMM) – 0137069509