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The New Malaysian National Agro-Food Policy:

Food Security and Food Safety Issues

Baki Hj. Bakar1, Azirah Hashim2, Che Wan Jasimah Mohamed Radzi3and Peter Songan4
1
Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2
English Language Dept., University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
3
Science and Technology Studies Dept., University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
4
Human Resource Development Dept, UNIMAS, Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia
Corresponding Author: baki.bakar@gmail.com

Biographical Notes of Authors

Baki Hj. Bakar PhD (Plant Ecology)(Wales) - Former professor of weed science and plant
ecology. Research interest: Food Security and Food Safety, Weed Ecology and Management,
Herbicide Resistance, Allelopathy, Forest Ecology, and Sustainability and Management of the
Agro-ecosystems and Environment.

Azirah Hashim PhD (Linguistics)(Malaya) - Dean, Humanities and Ethics Research Cluster
and Professor in the English Department, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of
Malaya. Research interests: Language and Law and Academic and Professional Discourse.

Che Wan Jasimah Mohamed Radzi PhD (Food Policy)(Malaya) - Senior Lecturer in Science and
Technology Policy Studies. Research interest: Food Technology and Health, Management of Halal
Industry and Food Chain with Society and Industry.

Peter Songan PhD (Adult, Extension, Agriculture and Continuing Education)(Cornell) - Professor
of Human Resource Development, and currently is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research &
Innovation) at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. Research interest: Continuing Professional
Development, Community Development and Community Informatics.

ABSTRACT

Food security and food safety (FSFS) concerns are perennial issues plaguing many developing and
newly burgeoning economies worldwide, including Malaysia. With the annual import food bills in
excess of US$8 billion, the FSFS issues are high on the National Key Result Areas (NKRA) and
National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) within the framework of the National Economic
Transformation Programmes (NETP) and the national security agenda. We discussed the New
National Agro-Food Policy (NAFP), the surrogate of the National Agricultural Policies (NAP1,
NAP2 and NAP3), within the context of FSFS in ensuring that agriculture, particularly the agro-
food, is a competitive and sustainable industry which can increase the income of agriculture
entrepreneurs. The NAFP focuses on eight key thrusts with FSFS and food production technology
taking centre-stage, inter-alia, the modernization of the high-value sustainable agriculture
development in light of climate change and rising source of production to high external input
dependency, through government-led investments augmented with the private sectors participation
powered by knowledgeable human capital. With the annual projected growth of ca. 4.6%, the agro-
food industry is set to generate US$10 billion annually of the Gross Domestic Product by 2020. The
socio-economic impacts of NAFP to the local populace and the need to broaden the scope of its new
NAFP along the lines of the Asian Integrated Food Security Framework and the Strategic Plan of
Action on Food Security in the region are also discussed.

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Keywords: National Agro-Food Policy, food security and food safety, sustainable agricultural
development.
If there is no man, there will be no woman,
if there is no agriculture, there will be no
mankind - Baki B. Bakar (2005)

INTRODUCTION

Agriculture remains an important part of the Malaysian national economy in the new millennium
for an increasingly burgeoning populace with the challenge to provide both food security and food
safety (FSFS), and sustainable development and wealth creation. The Malaysian agriculture is
characterized by dualism, viz. smallholders sector with an average farm size of 1 - 2 ha, and the
plantation-based estate sector with farm sizes in excess of 500 ha. This dichotomy in agricultural
industry places great economic emphasis on cash crops, namely oil palm, rubber, and cocoa
although sizeable acreages of the arable lands are planted with food crops like rice, pepper, fruit
orchards, vegetables, and herbs. The industry has evolved from a stereotypical Third World
peasantry economic entity to the vibrant third engine of economic growth contributing no less than
US$5.63, 6.34, 7.75, 8.48, and 13.56 billion to the national GDP in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2008,
2010,respectively. These were translated as merely 10.3, 8.7 9.7 and 7.3% of the GNP, respectively
(Anon 1995, 2000, 2005, 2008 and 2010). The primary issues besieging Malaysian agriculture in
the new millennium include ensuring food security and food safety for the populace with parallel
and determined effort to sustain, and where possible, increase exports of agricultural produce. The
recent re-emphasis on agricultural development focusing principally on food production in the
country to off-set imports within the framework of food security and food security is timely. Today
the ability of agriculture to produce enough food and fibre for the world populace is primarily
dependent on modern agro-technology and effective extension programmes.
The ensuing discussion in this paper focuses on contemporary issues that have shaped
Malaysian agricultural economy and agro-based industry in the new millennium especially within
the context of FSFS. The discussion also focuses on the New Agricultural Policy (NAP1, NAP2,
and NAP3), the surrogates of the newly launched National Agro-Food Policy, taking into account
the halal factor and possible socio-economic impacts of such a policy on the local populace. The
paper ends with a note on future trends and challenges in key issues of FSFS taking centre stage in
modern Malaysian agricultural industry, and steps to be taken to overcome such challenges,
especially at the national level. In addition, the Asian Integrated Food Security Framework and
Regional Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security at the regional level are also discussed.

The New Agricultural Policies are the guiding


principles for Malaysia to stay competitive in the
agriculture and agro-based industry while providing
food security at affordable price for the populace, albeit
their burgeoning socio-economic status- Sanusi Junid,
Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Malaysia
(1986-1995)

THE NEW AGRICULTURAL POLICY (NAP1, NAP2, NAP3) REVISITED

The New Agricultural Policy (NAP1, NAP2 and NAP3)(1984 2010)(Anon 1984, 1992, 1998) are
the guiding principles for Malaysia to stay competitive in the agriculture and agro-based industry
while providing food security at affordable prices for the populace.
NAPs Focus, Aims and Objectives. While NAP1 focuses on (i) commercialization of farming
activities; (ii) greater emphasis on food sufficiency; (iii) restructuring of AgroBank, FAMA, and
Farmers Association Authority, MARDI; (iv) opening up of more Integrated Agricultural
Development Projects (IADP); and (v) opening up of new land and in-situ rehabilitation of existing
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farm lands, the NAP2 and NAP3 focus on (i) food security and food safety (food scarcity) (FSFS);
(ii) increasing efficiency of food & commercial cash crops productivity; (iii) growth and
development of downstream agro-based industries and job creation to augment inter-sectorial
growth; and (iv) liberalization policy for equity investment by foreign investors. The NAPs were
meant to complement and implemented in tandem with the other development policies such as The
National Development Policy, The Second Industrial Master Plan, The Science and Technology
Policy, and the National Biodiversity Policy to facilitate economic development to attain developed
status for the nation by 2020.
The principal aims of the NAPs are multi-faceted: the provision of sustainable good forestry
and agriculture practices, human resource development including in new and emerging areas of
agricultural sciences as well as professional farm managers for large-scale farming enterprises.
These NAPs are private-sector driven while the public-sector would facilitate and enhance the
delivery of support services required. Further, the NAPs are also aimed at maximization of income
through the optimal utilization of resources in the sector including maximizing agricultures
contribution to national income and export earnings as well as maximizing income of producers.
Among the objectives of the NAPs are the (i) development of new agricultural industries and
products from primary commodities and natural resources through R&D; (ii) development of new
high value products from agricultural commodities as well as agricultural waste and by-products,
creating new markets; (iii) increase in export earnings; (iv) integration of agro-forestry
development; (iv) increase in the production of major food products to enhance food security and
better food quality at affordable prices; (v) enhancement of food security for the populace and the
nation; (vi) increase in productivity and competitiveness of the sector (vii) deepening of linkages
with other sectors; (viii) creation of new sources of growth for the sector, and (ix) conservation and
utilization of natural resources on a sustainable basis.
NAPs Policy Thrusts and Approaches. These policy thrusts include (a) meeting national food
requirements or food security through large food production by the private sector; (b) enhancing
competitiveness and profitability in agriculture and forestry promoting globally competitive
industries in agriculture and forestry, developing world competitive outlook and an export- oriented
culture; (c) capitalizing on the product value-chain by reorientation from commodity-based to
product-based production and marketing, capital and technology intensive agricultural production
system and less labour intensive enterprises as well as cultivation of high-value crops and forest
species; (d) enhancing the integrated development of the food and industrial crop subsectors-
resources such as land, labour and waste as well as exploiting by-products; enhancing R&D in
waste and by-product utilization and commercializing these R&D findings; (e) strengthening
requisite economic foundation- up-grading quality of human resources, development of indigenous
R&D capabilities and technology such as IT, modern infrastructure, business support services,
financing and incentives and an enabling institutional framework; and (f) adopting sustainable
development-rules, regulations and incentives to be strengthened with emphasis on R&D on
appropriate technologies.

Strategic approach and strong R & D as outlined in the The


National Agro-Food Policy when properly
implemented will ensure food securiy and safety for all
Malaysians - Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak (2011), Prime
Minisiter of Malaysia.

NATIONAL AGRO-FOOD POLICY (NAFP)

The success of the NAP1, NAP2 and NAP3 and the need to transform the agricultural sector and the
dramatic global increase of food prices in 2008 in Malaysia and worldwide have led the government
to launch the New Agro-Food Policy (NAFP). This policy focuses on increasing the efficiency of
agro-food industry along the value-food chain so as to make the industry more productive,
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competitive and knowledge intensive. This new approach comprises eight primary ideas which
have been identified in support of the transformation process of agro-food industry, viz.:(1) Food
security sufficiency, availability, food security and affordability; (2) Development of high-value
agriculture; (3) Sustainable agricultural development; (4) Dynamic agricultural cluster with
maximization of income generation; (5) Private sector driven investment of modern agriculture; (6)
Knowledge- and information-based human capital; (7) Modernization of agriculture driven by R &
D, technology and innovation; and (8) Prime agricultural support services.
NAFP Principal Objectives and Strategic Directions. The NAFP was formulated with the
principal objectives of (i) providing food security and safety (ii) making agro-food a competitive
and sustainable industry, and (iii) increasing level of income of agro-based entrepreneurs. In order
to achieve those objectives, seven development strategies were outlined,viz. (i) Ensure national food
security this could be achieved by increasing food production and food access, as well as
stabilising food prices, and ensuring food safety and nutrition; (ii) Increase contribution of agro-
food industry this can be done by exploring high value food products, increasing productivity
through the use of intensification of agriculture factors, and expansion of agro-based industry; (iii)
Complete value chain this needs the development of integrated and sustainable cluster dynamics,
strenthening of local and global markets web, and integrating sustainability practices and
traceability system as part of the value chain(iv) Empower human capital this require the
provision of knowledgable and well-trained agriculturalists and agriculturists augmented with
agricultural entrepeneurs with progressive mindset; (v) Strengthen R & D activities, innovation and
use of technology these strategies require the creation of a conducive environment for innovation
and creativity, intensification of R & D with the developmnet of innovative products, as well as
expanding mechanization, automation and technology transfer (vi) Create the environment for
private sectors-led business the government needs to facilitate this by providing adequate
integrative infrastructure and agriculture-related business activities, competitive investment
incentives to attract local and foreign investors, enhance financing and risk sharing access,
strengthening the roles of agricultural SMEs, and rationalizing subsidies and minimize market
distortions; and (vii) Strengthen the delivery system the government needs to rationalize and
strengthen the roles and functions of agriculture-related departments and agencies, and
organizations and their service delivery by involving relevant stakeholders, and most importantly
the need to develop a Strategic Industry Development Council (SIDC). The SIDC is of central
importance to plan, oversee and improve the agricultural development in the country inline with the
domestic and global market needs and demands.
NAFP Agricultural Productivity, Self-Reliance, Food Security and Food Safety. Following the
dramatic global increase of food prices in 2008, food security has become a key issue worldwide,
including in Malaysia. The increase in food prices can be seen from the Consumer Food Prices
Index from 100 in 2005 to 124.1 in 2010 vis-a-vis the Consumer Price Index (Fig .1 ). This issue
will be more pressing following climate change, limited production factors, increase in price of
inputs, and competition of food sources as biofuels. These perceived challenges are fortified by the
increase in population and changes in diet regimes.
The key issues and challenges in the development of the domestic agro-food industry in
Malaysia with FSFS issues taking centre stage can be seen in limited land resources, idle land, lack
of workforce, lack of infrastructure, and incidence of pests and diseases. In addition are issues of
low productivity and competitiveness, less generation, transfer and commercialization of R & D and
weak supply of food chain. To face the challenge of controlling the Consumer Price Index (CPI)
and increasing or sustaining productivity, the country is faced with the inevitable increase in
production cost, along with practices in the production chain that are less environmentally friendly
and a waste of output from farm gate to the consumers. The challenge to strengthen agro-based
business environment is plagued with the perennial issue of low private sector investment.
The primary initiatives that would be taken to ensure food security in the country include (i)
enhancing food production through the optimization of available land, sustainable agricultural
intensification and large-scale planting of rice in granaries; (ii) increasing and improve access to
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food through the availability of marketing infrastructure and promotion; (iii) ensuring reasonable
food prices with the development of monitoring systems on food prices and early warning systemon
food availability; and (iv) ensuring food safety and nutrition through Food-based Social Security
Network, and food nutrition awarenesscampaign.
The agro-food industries needs to focus on the development of high value commodities and
activities as contribution to the national GDP. Special emphasis will be given to the development of

Fig. 1. Food Price Index (FPI) vis-a-vis Consumer Price Index (CPI)
2003-2010)(Anon 2011).

industries related to birds nest, cattle and goat, aquaculture, seaweeds, ornamental fish, herbs and
spices, premiun fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, and floriculture.
There will be 16 Entry Points Projects (EPP) with 11 Business Opportunities in agriculture
that have been identified under National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) initiatives that will be
implemented. These initiatives are estimated to contribute no less than RM49.1 billion to the GDP
in 2020, thereby creating new jobs, expand business opportunities, and increase local and foreign
investments these will increase income for agriculure- and agro-business-related activities and
maximization and sustainability of available resources.
The National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) is defined as a driver to potential economic
activities that will contribute significantly to Malaysia's economic growth, measured through the
gross national income (GNI) and employment opportunities indicators as well as the ability to
attract the top talents. The NKEA of economic development approach is different in which
economic growth will be led by the private sector and supported by the Government, which serves
as the facilitator. There are twelve NKEAs as the core of ETP, and one of them is the Agriculture
NKEA. The agriculture sector, excluding palm oil and rubber contributed RM20 billion or 4% of
Malaysia's GNI in 2009. The Agriculture NKEA focuses on sub-sectors with high growth
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potentials, i.e. aquaculture, seaweed farming, swiftlet nests, herbal products, fruits and vegetables
and premium processed food. This will enable Malaysia to penetrate the high-value rapidly growing
global market. Sub-sectors such as rice and livestock are also chosen because of their importance as
the main source of national food security. The goal of Agriculture NKEA is to contribute to the
increase in gross national income (GNI) amounting to RM21.44 billion by 2020. In addition, the
creation of 74,000 additional jobs is targeted within the period. To achieve these objectives, a total
of 16 Entry Point Projects (EPP) and 11 business opportunities have been identified to catalyse the
business driven by market demand, of industrial scale and characterised by integrated agriculture.
Instituting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) with judicious use of agricultural inputs particularly
in Permanent Food Production Zones and Aquaculture Industrial Zones will be emphasized by
harnessing sustainable exploration of our rich biodiversity resources.
The development of upstream activities with downstream activities in clusters within the
value chain, presently incomprehensive and erratic, needs to be strengthened. Production not in line
with market needs, coupled with the non-spread use of market information, non-conformity in price
indexing practices, non-systematic grading, packaging and labeling of products and produce,
inadequate marketing infrastructure, multi-layered marketing channels, and ineffective trade marks,
are some of the weaknesses in the value chains that have been identified and need to be
strengthened, improved or upgraded.
The participation of private sectors in Malaysian agricultural development especially in
large-scale estates is well-documented. However, such participation in the market-driven food
industry is rather lacking. This is partially due to a relatively high risk exposure, variability in
climatic factors and market values and prices, a long gestation period, difficulty in the process of
land acquisition, and unattractive investment incentives. The government as the key facilitator in
agribusiness will have to re-look at the present policies and procedures so as to attract private
participation and investement in food industry. The steps taken include the removal of price control
of agricultural produce in stages from readily available credit facilities from financial institutions,
and the rationalization of subsidies and agricultural incentives. In this case, the increasingly
important roles of small- and medium-scale industries (SMEs) in the development of food industry
in the country will be strengthened. Regular promotion of products, introduction of insurance
schemes, expansion of guarantee schemes for credits SMEs, and intensification of development
programmes for entrepreneurs, as well as linking SMEs with anchor companies to ensure markets
for the products/produce will be implemented.
The vagaries of skilled and semi-skilled labour in agro-food industries is a challenge to
policy makers, managers and the like in Malaysia. The non-conducive working environment,
limited opportunites for career developement, low emoluments, and negative perceptions of
agriculture as career paths make agro-food industries less attractive options vis-a-vis services and
manufacturing sectors for younger Malaysians. The statistics of ca. 45,000 of foreign workers in
2005 increasing to ca. 233,000 in 2010 reflect our dependence on foreign labour in our agro-food
industries.
The need to expand skilled and semi-skilled labour force from our pool of human capital to
replace foreign workers through technology intensification and innovation agro-food programmes is
a serious undertaking. Fields such as farm management, precision farming, biotechnology,
mechanization and automation, bioinformatics, process engineering, food traceability system,
entrepreneurship and development of product marketing have been identified as key areas to be
focused on. The expansion of local labour force to meet market demand and needs of the agro-food
industries requires expansion and upgrading of curricula of institutions of higher learning. The
planning and supervisory roles of the National Agricultural Training Centres in agro-food industries
needs to be strengthened and upgraded in line with increasingly market-driven needs. Agricultural
graduates will be given priority in securing credit facilities to enable them to venture in agro-food
industries.
Further development and expansion of the agro-food industries in Malaysia require effective
and meaningful R & D activities manned by trained world-class manpower with adequate research
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grants and facilities from both public and public sectors. The need for enough critical mass of
trained professionals in our research institutions and universities to generate technological
innovations for the industries at competitive costs is equally important. The present set-up of agro-
based research institutions in Malaysia by loading almost every commodity research except for oil
palm, rubber and cocoa in the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute
(MARDI) has led to less focused research over the years, thereby diluting any meaningful outputs
for the country at large and agro-food industry in particular. We would strongly advocate that the
government revamp MARDI, and replace it with Agricultural Research Council overseeing
agriculture and agro-based research in the country. The government should also set-up crop-based
research institutes aligned with food processing and technology, like our neighbours,in particular,
Thailand. There is simply not enough critical mass in MARDI under the present set-up to focus on
crop-based research especially key commodities like rice, vegetables, fruits, and herbs. There
should also be a fully-pledged Food Technology Research Institute.
We believe that any meaningful development of agriculture and food industries in the
country requires fully-pledged and committed extension support services. The present set-up with
the Department of Agriculture as the focal point of extension services has not been proven effective,
despite MARDI, RISDA, Felcra, FELDA, IADA, FAMA and other goverment agriculture-related
agencies also playing similar roles. It is questionable whether the joint committees between these
agencies do help to improve the farming communities in their in-situ or ex-situ problems solving.
With the market driven NKEA Agriculture and EPP in place, facilitated and supported by
the relevant government agencies with active participation of the private sectors, Malaysia is set to
achieve the target food production to support the needs of an increasing and affluent population.
Such targets are shown in the production of key food commodities in 2000-2020 (Fig. 2) and agro-
food production forecasts for 2011-2020 (Table 1) and the self-sufficiency level of key food
commodities in 2000-2020 (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2. Production of key food commodities for 2000-2020 in Malaysia.

We envisaged that such increases in the production of food commodities will entail a parallel
decrease of landuse from 13% or 922,000 ha in 2010 to 11% or 841,000 ha in 2020 but an increase
in labour force efficiency from RM32,000/worker in 2010 to RM45,000/worker in 2020. The labour
force engaged in food industry in 2010 represents only 586,000 or 5% of the total labour force. The
parallel figures for 2020 would be 669,000 and 4.6%.
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NAFP Development of Specific Agro-Food Industries -There are several key commodities or
products and produces requiring meaningful increase in their value-added production targets in
order to meet the domestic SSL and global demand forexport. These commodities or
products/produces include rice, captured fish, livestock, vegetables, fruits, edible birds nests,
aquaculture, seaweed, ornamental fish, herbs and species, floriculture, mushrooms, and agro-
tourism. There is also a strong need to develop a market-driven global competitiveness of the
Malaysian agro-industry through strong government support and commitments with active private
sectors participation.
Rice The government sets the target of self-sufficiency level (SLL) of 70% for rice production in
the country for 2011-2020 with temporal reviews by taking into account food security, global
market and relative costs of imports. The emphasis is to expand rice production areas in Sabah and
Sarawak and the existing rice granaries. The R & D initiatives would be to improve productivity
through precision farming, water management and production of new high yielding varieties. There
is also a strong need to restructure incentives and subsidies to farmers and producers in order to
sustain and increase productivity. The production tonnage, annual production growth of rice in the
granary, non-granary, Sabah and Sarawak for 2000-2020 is shown in Fig. 4.
Captured Fish, Aquaculture, Ornamental Fish and Seaweed The total landings from coastal and
deep sea fishing for 2000-2020 are displayed in Fig. 5. The shares in the landings from coastal and
deep sea fishing would register a modest projected growth from 0.3%/year (2000-2010) to about
2.9%/year for the next decade, culminating in a measurable increase of landings from deep sea
fishing up to 35% in 2020. Several steps need to be taken in order to achieve this projected growth
and production. The fishing industry needs to have sustainable management of the fisheries
resources and infrastructure, develop deep-sea fishing workforce, and reorganization of coastal
fisheries through the Fishermen Transformation Programme and Community-Based Resource
Management Programme.
In the aquaculture industry, the period 2011 through 2020 would witness a projected growth
of 8.6% culminating in the production of 790,000 MT in 2020. Such production with less domestic
consumption would guarantee an export value of RM3.2 billion (Fig. 6). Such a projected growth
requires the opening of 12,000 ha of new Aquaculture Industrial Zones (ZIA) in addition to the
existing ones with heavy emphasis on export-oriented species of sea bass, tilapia, grouper, lobster,
and sea-shrimp. There would be a need to guarantee consistent supply of fry and seeds to meet the
market demand. The effective R & D on aquaculture feed, seeds and disease management needs to
be in place to support the industry.
Another area of measurable economic potentials is the rearing of ornamental fish with
growth rates increasing from 10.9%/annum in 2000-2010 to a projected increase of 12%/annum in

Table 1. Projected agro-food production in (000 MT) for 2011-2020 in Malaysia

Items 2010 2015 2020 CAGR (%)

2011-2020
Crops 4,060 4,930 6,102 4.16
Rice 1,642 1,785 1,875 1.34
Fruits 1,768 2,115 2,569 3.81
Vegetables 651 1,029 1,658 9.80
Livestock 2,186 2,540 2,956 3.06
Beef 47 59 76 5.00

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Mutton 2.4 4.8 11.9 17.5
Poultry meat 1,296 1,505 1,746 3.0
Pork 234 231 231 -0.1
Eggs 540 651 773 3.6
Milk(mil liters) 67 89 118 5.8
Fish for food 1,338 1,626 2,117 4.7
Marine fish 989 1,141 1,323 2.9
Aquaculture 349 485 794 8.6
Total production 7,584 9,096 11,175 4.0

Fig. 3. The self-sufficiency level of key food commodities for 2000-2020 in Malaysia

the next decade. By 2020, the industry would produce 26.71 million fishes (Fig. 7) with the export
value of RM2.1 billion.The projected expansion of the industry in the ensuing years would require
an additional 2000 ha in area plus the development of infrastructure in anticipation of increased
export. The industry would also require the setting up of the National Ornamental Fish Research
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Centre for R & D and marketing with special concentration on arowana, koi, goldfish, discus and
marine ornamental fishes.
The seaweed industry is certainly the fastest growing one in the country with 24.9%/annum
growth in the last decade. For the next decade, the industry is set to register a 19.7%/annum growth
culminating in the production of 900,000 MT in 2020. The export value of seaweeds in 2020 would
register a figure of RM1.4 billion (Fig. 8). The industry would witness the increase in productivity
from 1.5 MT/ha/annum to 5 MT/ha/annum by the year 2020 from 2010, possibly due to the set-up
of Seaweed Industrial Zones in Sabah, principally in Semporna, Lahad Datu, Kudat, Langkawi and
other potential areas.
Livestock The livestock industry except for poultry meat and eggs in Malaysia has not developed
its potential over the years despite the push by the government and strong market demand for meat.
The industry registered a 5.9% annual growth in 2000-2010, but for the next decade this is projected
to decrease to only 2.7%/ annum. Egg production shows a healthy rise registering 700,000 tons in
2020. Milk production also displayed slower growth to only about 5.8%/annum in the next decade
compared with 8.6% annual growth for 2000-2010. The industry albeit its slow growth is set to
develop disease-free status, with focused R & D on animal feed and breed, integrated satellite farms
and centralized slaughtering plants.
Vegetables, Fruits, and Mushrooms The demand for vegetables, fruits and mushrooms in the
country is strong with the respective annual growth of 9.8, 3.8 and 16% for the next decade (Fig. 9).
The NAFP on the growth of vegetables industry focused on increased intensity of production to 1.8
2.5 cycles/annum with emphasis on fertigation, precision farming and home-protector rain. The
allocation of additional 8,000 ha of land for Permanent Food Production Park, cluster projects, and
organic farming, among others, may help to boost production and reduce dependence on imports.
Fruit production under the NAFP projects has an annual growth of 3.8% for the next decade. This
culminates in the production of 2.1 million MT in 2020. The industry is set to increase productivity
to about 9.6 12.9 tons/ha, then with heavy emphasis on export oriented fruits namely banana,
pineapple, star fruits, watermelon, papaya, mango, mangosteen, durian, rambutan, guava and
jackfruit. The R & D activities would focus on disease management, quality assurance and
development of new varieties.

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Fig. 4. Production tonnage and annual production growth of rice in the granary, non-granary,
Sabah and Sarawak for 2000-2020.

Edible Birds Nests, Floriculture, Herbs and Species These industries are new additions to our
value-added export items, in addition to domestic demand, albeit small. Together these industries
contributed RM1.9 billion export sales for 2010, and by 2020 these exports are projected to increase
by up to RM6.5 billion. As for the Edible Birds Nests, annual production is expected to increase at
11.6% at 290 MT in 2010 to 890 MT in 2020 following increased productivity of 5.3-
13.8kg/premise, additional 13,000 new premises for breeding zones, and the Accreditation of
Malaysian Swiftlets Standards supported by robust R & D activities (Fig. 10). Malaysian herbs and
species are set to increase productivity following strong domestic and overseas demand for the
products. The industry is expected to witness a 23.9% growth in the next decade, principally driven
by increase in demands for value-added products in the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical and
cosmeticeutical industries.
Other emerging markets include floriculture with 23.5% in annual growth between 2000 and
2010 (Fig. 11). The market value of exports was RM449 million in 2010. The industry, despite
expecting to display slower growth of 6.7%/annum in the next decade, would harvest RM857
million in export markets by 2020. The robust R & D activities focusing on varieties, germplasm
and biotechnology, fortified with the setting up of Floriculture Agrotech Park and Nursery
Commercial Zones under the NAFP would augur well for the industry in its quest for bigger shares
of domestic and foreign markets.
NAFP The Halal Factor-One emerging issue that is being addressed in the NAFP is the halal
factor in the value chain of food production and accessories not only for the purpose of domestic
consumption but also for export. The Halalan Toyyiban concept in the Halal Accessories and
Food Assurance System (HAFAS) is a quality system that ensures that the production of food
products and accessory (garments, shoes, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, etc.) are halal.

Fig. 5. Total landings of fishes from coastal and deep sea fishing for 2000-2020 in Malaysia.

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Fig. 6. Aquaculture production by types of fishes/shellfish/crustaceans (2000-2020)(000 MT).

12% per year

10.9% per year

Fig. 7. Ornamental fish production in Malaysia (2000-2010) (millions of fish).

19.7% per
year
12
24.7% per
year

Fig. 8. Projected production of seaweeds in 2020 in Malaysia.

The perception that halal is of non-pig/pork source or products free from alcohol and the lack of
understanding with regards to halal product transportation and placement with non-halal products
need to be corrected.
Many of the present halal standards only focus on the end products without taking into
consideration the halal status of raw materials and additives that used in the end products. Similarly,
rarely do such halal standards take into account the processing pathways. This is exemplified by
agricultural produce like meat or crops that may be subjected to heavy doses of pesticides and
antibiotics, leaving high residues, which in essence, may be halal, but their halal status has been
compromised. In addition, the advancement in food processing technology has led to the loading of
processed food with food additives. Consequently, the approach in the assessment of processed

Vegetables

9.8% per year

2.6% per year

Fruits
3.8% per
year
5.6% per year

13
Mushrooms

16% per year

Fig. 9. Projected growth of vegetables, fruits and mushrooms in Malaysia in 2011-2020.

11.6% per year

Fig. 10. Edible birds nests present (2000-2010) and projected sales from
RM1.7 billion to RM5.2 billion (2011-2020) in Malaysia.

14
6.2% per year

7.2% per year

Fig. 11. Production and market value of floriculture industry in Malaysia


from RM54 million in 2000 to RM857 million in 2020.

food as end products may not be suitable. HAFAS has developed labelling standards for
halal/haram based on a system approach for organizations/bodies that produce halal food and food
and accessories.
The HAFAS system comprises the presently available certification system used in the agro-
food industry. The HAFAS management standards are based on the Halal/Haram concept in Islam
which also covers the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) which focuses on food
safety aspects (hygiene standards). The advantage of HAFAS is the Halal Coverage which
emphasizes the Methodology and Management aspects as well Value Ethics in order to ensure that
the status of halal products and accessories are never in doubt.
The HAFAS practitioners are required to focus on those checks as Halal Control Points
(HCP), not only to ensure the halal status of products but also to emphasize hygiene and cleanliness
as well as product safety along the supplylines.
The importance of HCP is shown in Fig. 12, whereby the detailed HCP of contention (where
doubts on the status of halal of process and product) needs to be ascertained accordingly, based on
the industry or primary products in question.
The average global halal food trade is estimated at RM 600 billion per year. Therefore, there
is tremendous potential in the development and production of halal products especially food and we
must put in greater efforts to gain and expand our market share. In the Third National Agricultural
Policy, the government has placed emphasis on the development of Malaysia as an International
Halal Food Hub. This is to increase the export market of the country by capturing the global Halal
food market. In line with this vision, the Halal standard is established and will be utilised by the
appointed Halal certification body, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) in
their Halal Certification scheme.
NAFP Climate Change. Malaysia has had her share of the damaging effects of climate change
which have impacted crop productivity and environmental well-being. However, there is a paucity
of published information on the impacts of climate change on the productivity of major crops like
15
oil palm, rubber, rice paddies, vegetables and fruits in the country. The occasional dry spells in the
rice granaries and nongranaries have led to deleterious effects on yields of rice in the Muda,
Kemubu, Krian-Sungai Manik, Tanjung Karang, and other smaller granaries in the country
including Sabah and Sarawak. Recent unpublished studies by the senior author on the impact of dry
weather and torrential rains and floods showed no less than 18% reduction in rice yields on average.
The big floods of 1990, 1995, 2001, 2005, and 2009 had reduced the yields to almost 0% in the
affected areas in the states of Kedah, Kelantan, Perak, Selangor, Penang and Perlis (Baki, B.B.
unpublished data). These floods also inflicted damages on the infrastructures, particularly, the
irrigation and drainage canals, bunds, and country roads and pathways in those granaries. In rubber
estates and smallholdings, dry spells would lead to crop wintering, with less frequency of taping,
and of course less productivity of latex. In the same vein, torrential rains and floods would also lead
to low frequency of taping, hence low productivity in rubber estates or smallholdings.

NAFP- Socio-economic Impacts


Human Resource Development (HRD) - There is a need for continuous training and development
of human resources to support and sustain the development of existing agricultural industries and
initiate the growth of new ones. HRD is imperative for improving capacity and technology
including information technology, entrepreneurial and managerial, and operational or workforce
levels, and in new and emerging science, such as, genetic engineering, biotechnology,
mechanization and automation. For example, in paddy production, R&D efforts are undertaken to
enhance yield from 4.0 tonnes per hectare in 1995 to 5.5 tonnes per hectare in 2010. High
technology is used for producing high value temperate vegetables in lowlands using controlled
environment, which includes high rain shelters and netted structures. Human resources with high
R&D capability are also required to conduct studies on cost-effective production of vegetables, as
well as post-harvesting handling and processing with particular emphasis on agricultural
mechanisation, and labour-saving techniques. As for oil palm, the focus of the NAFP is on
productivity improvement in downstream processing and manufacturing of higher value-added
palm oil products. Efforts are also undertaken to make the oil palm industry a sustainable zero-
waste industry, through the exploitation of oil palm biomass. Highly knowledgeable and skilled
human resources are required in labour saving technology, such as, mechanisation and automation
in harvesting operation to reduce labour inputs in oil palm cultivation so as to enhance the
industrys competitiveness in the worlds oils and fats market. Trained human resources are also

16
Processes that are not Godowns and stores that Logistical system and
Halal produce(s) that contaminated with non- are separated from non- transport which are
Inputs that do not cause
are halal and halal additives, colourings, halal products/produce separated from non-halal
contamination in the
slaughtered in the halal preservatives, and are and in the environment in an environment which
products processed in premises and which does not affect the does not affect gthe
way and wholesomel
machineries that are halal produc/produce prodce/product
HCP HCP HCP HCP HCP
2 4 6 8 10

Input s(seeds,
Godown/cold Distribution
fertilizer,
pesticides, animal
Produce/Product Processing storage and and
freezer marketing
feeds)

Biodiversity Production Processing of Product Product for


Consumers
Resources System Raw Materials Packaging Distribution

HCP HCP HCP HCP HCP HCP


1 3 5 7 9 11
Produce/Products that Product or Produce
Production System are halal and Packaging that is not Product or
Halal Produce that are not doubtful
which does not wholesome and not contaminated but can Produce that are
(Animals and contaminated during contaminate food and not doubtful in
in their halal status
affect gthe after distribution and
Fishes) handling and transport the environment their halal status
environment to the factory marketing

Fig. 12. Positions of specific points of Halal Control Points (HCP) in Value Chain/Supply.

required to do market research and surveillance, and to come up with marketing strategies to
strengthen traditional and existing markets, as well as to develop new ones.
Employment and Productivity - Presently, there is an acute shortage of labour to high
unemployment leading to high employment of immigrant workers in agriculture and forestry
sectors. Total workforce in agriculture declines from 1,524,000 workers in 1995 to 930,000
workers in 2010. Due to this shortage, it is estimated that about 300,000 hectares of rubber
holdings are untapped and 30,000 hectares of oil palm are not fully harvested. Productivity gains in
agriculture have also not matched up to parallel increases in factors prices. Currently, labour
productivity in agriculture is only about 60 per cent of the labour productivity in the manufacturing
sector. This necessitates measures to reduce employment in agriculture and enhance labour
productivity, which is expected to increase from RM10,650 per worker to RM24,730 per worker
within the same period. Efforts to enhance productivity are also undertaken through the utilization
of high yielding clones and improvements in agronomic practices among small farmers, as well as
increased mechanisation.
Economics: Commodity development and market orientation The NAFP has brought about a
reorientation of commodity development approach leading to a new direction of markets focus and
marketing strategy, promotion of private sectors, especially small and medium scale enterprises
(SMEs) participation in food processing and enhancing agro-tourism.
Global consumers are increasingly demanding products that are more specific to their needs
and preferences. Since they are now more accessible to information and communication
technologies (ICTs), they have the ability to seek, identify and procure these products. The former
commodity-based strategies limit the effectiveness to serve market that are of higher value and
more segmented. A new orientation for agricultural development to serve the needs of these
17
markets is therefore required under the NAFP. A product-based approach for commodity
development is employed, whereby key products and markets are identified based on market
demand, consumer preferences, and potential. These market demand and preferences are translated
into strategies for upstream primary agricultural production to enhance production and marketing of
the agricultural and forestry products. Cited here are some cases of a product-based approach for
commodity development.
Smallholder livestock activities with potential are transformed into larger commercial
operations to improve efficiency. Efforts are undertaken to strengthen the linkages of these
operations with suppliers, processors and marketers to further enhance the vertical and horizontal
integration of the industry. Efforts are also undertaken to develop and exploit Malaysias potential
as an international halal food hub. Capacity for inspection, monitoring, standardisation and
certification for Malaysian Halal Standard for livestock products and industrial livestock-based
inputs is strengthened and this standard has been internationally promoted. The international
marketing of branded halal livestock products and industrial livestock-based inputs are currently
being undertaken.
The private sector is encouraged to participate in commercial fishing, aquaculture, such as,
larger-scale open marine-cage culture, and in feed and fry production. The government is
undertaking efforts to unify individual entrepreneurs including SMEs in processing to form
consortia led by corporate leaders to venture into commercial fishing, develop and manage
integrated processing complexes and mega-fishing ports. Joint ventures between local and foreign
private sector are being promoted under the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-
GT), Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippine-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and the
Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore-Growth Triangle (IMS-GT) to engage in deep-sea fishing.
Institutional support, infrastructure and incentives are provided to the fruit industry to
encourage private sector to venture into large-scale commercial production of fruits and fruit
products. New processed products, such as minimally processed fruits, natural food ingredients,
functional food, modified food ingredient, convenience food, frozen fruits, beverages and high fibre
products are being exploited to cater to the increasing demand in niche markets.
New products that include biotechnological products, specialty natural products,
floricultural products, aquarium fish and aquatic plants, equine and exotic animals and sago have
shown that they have the potential of becoming important sources of growth for agriculture and
forestry. Technology and product development are the major driving force in enhancing their
industrial prospects. Public sector-driven joint-venture programmes and projects involving the
private sector are intensified to commercialise research findings and innovations of these new
products. Agro-technology parks are being developed to facilitate private sector investments in
these industries which employ the latest or frontier technology. Sago starch is one of the starches
that are being exploited commercially to produce biodegradable plastics, biopolymer plastics, water
absorbent polymer and starch medium for encapsulation. Commercial planting of sago on a large
scale by the private sector are encouraged, especially in peat soils of Sarawak given the crops
adaptability to natural peat swamp conditions in order to reduce cost and increase productivity.
Agro-tourism, an activity which maximises the use of farm settings and the environment
with hospitality are being promoted in the country. Agricultural areas and activities provide visitor
attractions which can form the basis of destination development for tourists. These areas are
developed into unique destinations for the enjoyment, relaxation and education of tourists. In
addition, suitable marine areas and public water-bodies are developed for sport fishing.
Improving socio-economic status of rural farmers and fishermen -The government has been
committed boosting the income of the rural population. During the post-independence period of the
1970s, the Green Revolution form of agriculture was consciously promoted to rural farmers to
increase yield and income. The government offered infrastructure and technical support and inputs
to smallholders for rice and tree crop cultivation through federal and state assisted programmes.
Subsequently, under the national strategy for agriculture development embodied in the 8th
Malaysian Plan (2001-2005), and the NAP3 (1998-2010), besides subsidies, credit incentives and
18
extension services, the government also designated special crop cultivation zones to rationalize and
enhance productivity. Farmers are also encouraged to group themselves into mini-estates or lease
their idle land to the government for development. Farmers and landless producers are encouraged
to join organised schemes through federal agencies, such as, the Federal Land Development
Authority (FELDA), the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (FELCRA) and
the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (RISDA).
According to Khor (2008), among measures taken by the government, are those aimed at
increasing incomes of rural farmers and fishermen mainly through productivity improvement. These
include:
(i) Subsidies, such as, free fertilizers to rice farmers, low price of diesel and petrol, providing
financial assistance to rehabilitate cocoa, pepper and sago smallholdings in the states of
Sabah and Sarawak.
(ii) Encouraging more rice farmers to participate in mini-estates and group farming activities.
(iii)Replanting programs of rubber and oil palm smallholdings using high yielding clones.
(iv) Incorporating mixed farming including integration of livestock in plantations, aquaculture
and off-farm economic activities.
(v) Improving the quality of life of coastal fishermen through socioeconomic programs.
(vi) Enhancing the capabilities of coastal fishermen through upgrading of boats, engines and
fishing equipment.
(vii) Setting up of a special program targeting poor households in the agriculture sector with the
primary aim of diversifying their sources of incomes. This last item is directly aimed at
improving incomes of small food producers, such as, farmers, livestock breeders, and
fishermen. It is estimated that some 70,000 poor families are benefitting from this special
program (EPU, 2006).

Food security exists when all people, at all times,


have physical and economic access to sufficient,
safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary
needs a and food preferences for an active and
healthy life- World Food Summit 1996)

ASEAN INTEGRATED FOOD SECURITY FRAMEWORK AND REGIONAL


STRATEGIC PLAN OF ACTION ON FOOD SECURITY

ASEAN Food Security Framework - Food security has long been an important agenda of ASEAN
In response to the high fluctuation of food prices coupled with the global financial crisis in 2008,
ASEAN needs to take a strategic and comprehensive approach towards long-term food security in
the region. To ensure long-term food security and to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the
region, ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework and the
Strategic Plan of Action on ASEAN Food Security (SPA-FS) at the 14thASEAN Summit in 2009.
The AIFS Framework and the SPA-FS, which are planned for 2009-2013, provide measures,
activities and timelines to facilitate cooperation in the implementation and monitoring process. The
implementation, coordination and monitoring by the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry
(AMAF) in coordination with other relevant ASEAN Sectorial Bodies through consultation with
stakeholders at regional and national levels to obtain relevant inputs and cooperation and to promote
sense of greater ownership. This involves the partnership and cooperation with dialogue partners,
international organizations and donour agencies (i.e. ADB, FAO, IFAD, IRRI,World Bank).
Key Components of the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework Strengthening
food security and emergency/shortage relief is a core measure in addressing food security in the
region and aims at strengthening national food security programmes and activities, and developing
regional food security reserve initiatives and mechanisms. Sustainable food production is an
important aspect of ensuring food security, which could be achieved through improving agricultural

19
infrastructure development, minimising postharvest losses, reducing transaction cost, promoting
efficient utilisation of resource potential for agricultural development, promoting agricultural
innovation including research and development on agricultural productivity, and accelerating
transfer and adoption of new technologies.
In addition, food security-related initiatives are being identified and promoted. These
include providing a food market conducive for sustainable food trade development, encouraging
greater public and private sector investment in food and agro-based industry development, and
strengthening integrated food security information system (i.e. mechanisms for an early warning,
monitoring and surveillance information system for food security). Emerging issues related to food
security such as the development of bio-fuels and impacts of climate change on food security will
also form an integral part of the AIFS Framework.
Component and Strategic Thrusts of ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Food Security
Framework - The ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework, comprising four
distinctive components, but inter-related in nature, provides scope and joint pragmatic approaches
for cooperation among ASEAN Member States to ensure long-term food security.
Component 1: Food Security and Emergency/Shortage Relief - This core component aims at
establishing a long-term mechanism for ASEAN and for ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice
Reserve with the focus on strengthening national food security programmes/ initiatives, and the
development of a regional effective and timely mechanism for the supply of rice as food aid for
emergency relief (food aid or grant) and/or under unusual market situation (grant or loan
agreement).
Component 2: Sustainable Food Trade Development The component aims at developing a buffer
mechanism to support fair/balanced food trade within the acceptable levels of food prices and helps
to ensure that due consideration is given to balancing domestic accessibility to food, intra and extra
regional food trade. Agreed criteria and conditions (i.e. high speculative food commodities such as
rice, cooking oil, sugar and maize) for the application apply.
Component 3: Integrated Food Security Information System The component aims at fast
tracking the current AFSIS project under an AMAF-Plus-Three Initiatives by establishing an
information network on food security among the Plus Three Countries to provide a sound and
timely information on outlook and surveillance report for food security policy planning,
implementation and monitoring. Other elements include Early Warning Information System,
Mutual Technical Cooperation and Preparation of Commodity Outlook Reports. Provision and
submission of timely and reliable data and information by all countries concerned is considered a
critical element for effective operation of this component. This will enable the Integrated Food
Security Information System to provide a basis for a regular monitoring and surveillance system to
the making of sound development planning and policy decision to address food security possible
unchartered increase in food price.
Component 4: Agricultural Innovation The component is a long-term plan aiming at formulating
and implementing a regional comprehensive R&D plan, through public and private sector
partnership, to promote efficient and sustainable food production, food consumption, post-harvest
practices and loss reduction, marketing and trade. The R&D areas, through priority setting, may
include strengthening and expanding agriculture cooperatives and farmers organisations, agri-
business entrepreneurship particularly SMEs, intra-regional contract farming, etc. In addition, other
supporting activities include building upon the ASEAN Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) for
sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices, and marketing of value-added tools
and food products. The key roles of the governments are to encourage success models, support
R&D, technology transfer and capacity building, and develop GAP certification scheme and its
accreditation system.
Fig. 13 illustrates the relationship between the four strategic components within the ASEAN
Food Security Framework.

20
What a globalised food system allows is to source
food from many different places An open, globalised
trading system provides a lot of additional security
rather than relying on your internal market -
Charlotte Hebebrand (2012), International Food and
Agricultural Trade Policy Council

FUTURE TRENDS AND CHALLENGES

The new millennium should augur well for Malaysia in its pursuit of sustainable agricultural
development with the challenge of FSFS for the populace aligned with the need to protect the
environment. Such development supported by vibrant research activities and committed extension
services and readily available credit facilities as spelt out in the NAFP will help to transform
Malaysian agriculture to meet the demands of FSFS. The trans-border food trade within the Asian
Integrated Food Security Framework and Regional Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security need
to be translated into food on plate rather than just merely ceremonial agendas in meetings and
deliberations among policy makers and the academics.

21
Fig. 13. Components and Strategic Thrusts of ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS)
Framework (Source:http://www.aseansec.org/22339.pdf)

FSFS Issues in Modern Malaysian Agriculture. The prevailing dualism in Malaysian agricultural
landscapes and the differing needs of small holders agriculture from those of large-scale farming of
the estates require that the government-promulgated NAPs caters for both. Despite facing the
vagaries of labour supply, agriculture remains an important part of the national economy in the new
millennium. The primary issues besieging Malaysian agriculture in the new millennium include
FSFS for the populace with a parallel and determined effort to sustain, and where possible, increase
exports of agricultural produce. Albeit the apparent decline in the contribution of the agricultural
sector to the Malaysian national economy, the development of agriculture in Malaysia, faces three
major challenges in the new millennium (i) Food Scarcity and Food Security (FSFS); (ii)
Agricultural Sustainability; and (iii) Environmental Health. More importantly, the apparently
perennial overriding concern of prime importance arising from the above include (i) How do we
feed the increasingly burgeoning populace from domestic sources of food yet attain sustainability in
production and maintaining environmental health? (ii) How does Malaysia divorce itself from being
increasingly dependent on food imports? To the producers and farmers, the relevant question would
22
be: How do we increase productivity and profit without incurring extra production cost? The
environmentalists and nature lovers would pose questions such as How does sustainability in food
production affect environmental health? The answers to these questions and related issues may
impact the ensuing development and progress in agriculture in Malaysia.
Specific and Underlying Issues- Trends and Reality. For an emerging industrialized nation like
Malaysia, it is disturbing to note that FSFS are synonymous with 21st century agriculture. This
notion is fortified by Malaysias monumental import food bills in excess of US$8 billion annually,
and is synonymous with the lingering concern for FSFS to feed the growing populace. The need for
intensification of agriculture due to increasingly limited arable land with paralleled population
growth is pressing. With intensification come the continuing pressure on and the deterioration of
natural resource-base. Some of the current issues facing Malaysian agriculture in general and pest
management practices in particular include increased (i) problems environmental pollutions due to
wide spread use of agrichemicals and farm produces laden with pesticides beyond the permissible
limits; (ii) incidences of the herbicide-resistant and noxious millennial weeds; (iii) water shortage;
(iv) technology divide between the plantation-based sector and the small farmers. Together these
disturbing trends will have a lasting impact on the socio-economic well-being of the farming
community and consumers alike, especially on the issues of food safety.
As a trading nation, Malaysia imports no less than US$8 billion worth of food annually and
this of course impacts negatively on the balance of trade. Insufficient and erratic production of food
items are construed as a primary reason for this high import food bills. Another teething issue
facing Malaysian agriculture especially on food items meant for the export markets such
aquaculture and animal products, vegetable and fruits, is the need to meet quality standard for
international markets. At the local front, the increasingly burgeoning population with the parallel
increase in per capita income and awareness of a balance diet and health consciousness of people
changing taste and food preferences would mean the need for adequate supply of safe, nutritious
and high quality food at affordable prices, and this high demand may lead to high food prices.
Moreover, with the intensification in agriculture comes the need for affordable labour. Malaysia
faces acute labour shortage leading to employment of and to a certain extent dependency on foreign
workers, another indirect way of the loss of foreign exchange. The low labour productivity of only
60% compared with the manufacturing sector is another disadvantage of the agricultural sector.
This is very real among the smallholders sector which experienced low labour productivity and
uneconomic farm sizes. Because of this lack of domestic production and inconsistent supply, which
has resulted in small and medium scale agro-based firms operating below capacity, there is a need
to strengthen inter- and intra-sectorial linkages with the support of downstream industries. If this
scenario of the economic scale and low labour productivity of small- and medium-size farms can be
improved, augmented by the strengthened inter- and intra-sector linkages with the support of
downstream industries, the present exports consisting mainly of primary and intermediate products
and high import of raw materials for food processing industries, and limited development of high
value-added resource-based products can be turned into highly profitable agriculture as echoed by
Baki (2006a) that Agriculture is business, and it is profitable. As with any business marketing
promotion of Malaysian products both for domestic and foreign markets is a continuous process,
one of the key ingredients in the NAFP.
While we have the common scenario of agricultural lands being converted to industrial,
residential and urban uses, there is this perennial problem of idle agricultural land and abandoned
holdings in the country. Under the present political climate and essentially bipartition politics or
realpolitik, there are always political innuendos when it comes to land issues between the federal
government at one end, and the state governments on another. For those intending to acquire land
for agricultural venture at commercial scale, the slow process in acquiring land is antithesis to this
effort, not forgetting the financial constraints that such acquisition may pose. The environmental
concerns and the need for more efficient agricultural and forestry practices for sustainable
development of the sector are no less important.

23
On the global scale, the very existence of WTO and AFTA, for which Malaysia is a
signatory to both free trade frameworks among trading nations of today, greater competition for
increasingly competitive markets are the rules of the game that Malaysian farmers are subjected to.
Disguised as preferential tariff schemes coupled with the discriminatory tariff and non-tariff barriers
among trading blocs worldwide, Malaysian farmers are at a disadvantage unless the government
pumps in funds to help small- and medium-scale farmers to compete to market their produce at
competitive prices.
Intrigues and Challenges. The most appropriate question being asked by the man on the street, Is
there a choice for the hungry and destitute? In the same vein, Does the responsible government
of an increasingly globalized world channel enough funds to upgrade and modernize agriculture to
produce not just enough but surplus food so that hunger and famine will no longer haunt our
populace despite signs of prosperity and a burgeoning economy in Malaysia? The FSFS issues in
Malaysia over the next two decades will depend on (i) Emphasis placed on agricultural research; (ii)
Dynamics of change and advances and development made in science and technology; and (iii)
Economic policy reforms. It is only expedient that policy makers, agriculturalists and research
scientists both in the government and private sectors should set research directions in agricultural
science in the country so as to generate knowledge-based and systems approach-based decision, at
least in principal economic crops, and most importantly on security food crops like rice and other
cereals, vegetables, animal and aquaculture so as to meet the needs of FSFS. These are essentially
the key issues embodied in the NAFP, and if successfully implemented would make FSFS less
pressing issues for Malaysia. It is equally important that those in the corridors of power and
influence and the technocrats realize soon enough that the sheer need to strategize the development
of effective agricultural management entails full understanding of the fundamental relationships
between agronomic practices, water management and crop care, and management of pests, weeds in
Malaysian agricultural systems. These endeavours require commitment and a strong will among
policy makers and agricultural scientists to strategize action plans for ensuring food security for the
country.

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