Wednesday, February 7, 2024

A rice crisis coming

The local drought in the northern rice growing states in May last year affected thousands of acres of farm and lowered padi yield. At the same time, drought hit elsewhere in Asia too resulting in rice production plummet, ban in export by India, and rice prices rose sharply in the international market

BERNAS was supposed to maintain a rice stockpile of 3 months for Peninsular and 6 months for Sabah & Sarawak. Unfortunately they never did and sources claim they were reluctant to sink-in RM1 billion for it. 

It is widely believed they were up to their neck to pay RM300 million (RM195 is a case in court against Muhyiddin) to fund PPBM's state and general election campaigns in exchange for 10 years concession extension.

The export ban by India and rise in international prices was the opportunity for MOA to float the market price for imported rice.  Suddenly rice was readily available for the stockpile and it probably came from foreign registered companies owned by Malaysians. And conveniently no more local grown rice at control price were available. 

The rice industry structure was already screwed up. Matter got worse with the incompetence of Kawal Selia Padi Unit (KSP) at MOA. They insisted seed cost kept at unrealistically lower than rice prices. At the new and higher price, farmers sold all their rice crop and kept none as seed for next planting seasons. A rice shortage is expected for March and April harvesting

Murphy's law was still at work. Media reported farmers complaining of padi kosong and the El Nino phenomena already taken its toll on this season's planting. Forget about achieving 7 to 10 or even 15 tonne per hectare. Its tough to achieve 1 tonne per hectare. 

MMO reported:

Ahead of CNY celebrations, Chinese padi farmers in Kedah distressed over crop failure 

Rice farmers show damaged rice due to a mysterious disease in Kampung Dulang Tengah in Yan, Kedah, January 31, 2024. — Bernama pic

Wednesday, 31 Jan 2024 8:40 PM MYT

YAN, Jan 31 — About 20 padi farmers from the Chinese community in Kampung Dulang Tengah here have claimed to have suffered losses of nearly RM200,000 after their crops were attacked by a mysterious disease.

The prospect of preparing for the upcoming Chinese New Year festival, which typically involves joyful gatherings and shared prosperity, now becomes a daunting task for these farmers who are burdened by the unexpected challenges posed by the disease affecting their crops.

Har Khai Hong, 60, claims that the issue involves around 30 hectares of padi fields and until now, the cause of the disease affecting their crop making it unproductive, remains unidentified, despite monitoring by the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) for the past month.

“I don’t know what disease this is which has affected my crops covering 1.2 hectares. The same thing is happening at my 18-hectare site near Semeling, Merbok,” he said as he complained about the lack of stalks, flowers and the presence of black grains with empty kernels.

“I didn’t change the seeds or used a different type of pesticide or fertiliser but the crops are not growing so it is going to be difficult for us this Chinese New Year,” he said when met here today.

Peng Poh Keat, 50, who has been cultivating padi for over 30 years, said the disease was detected a month ago when most of the crops over his six-hectare field showed limited stalks.

“It’s disheartening, especially with the Chinese New Year approaching. Normally, we depend on the income from our rice harvest for the festive season, but given the current situation, our celebration will have to be more modest as we need to think about the expenses for land rent and the costs associated with replanting in April.”

Chai Ah Sim, 81, who usually harvests approximately 50 tonnes from his seven-hectare field, is now facing a significant setback. Due to the disease affecting his crops, he anticipates a drastic reduction in his yield, expecting to obtain less than 10 tonnes this time.

He noted that despite fulfilling all the necessary requirements for the crop, more than 60 per cent of his rice plants have been adversely affected

“I believe the weather could be a contributing factor, especially with the current intense heat. I hope the relevant authorities can investigate and identify this disease while working towards a solution,” he said while hoping for assistance or incentives from the authorities to ease the burden on farmers.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Padi Farmers Brotherhood Organisation committee member Rosdi Yahaya, said the problem of the disease in the area has been referred to Mada for further action.

“The disease was identified a month ago, manifesting in rice plants that grow without producing any grains, leading to empty rice husks.

“I strongly recommend that this issue be brought to the attention of Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) for thorough research to ascertain the cause of this disease,” he said adding that if left unaddressed, there is a concern that the issue could escalate, posing a threat to food security in Malaysia. — Bernama

The water woes from the El Nino phenomenon has affected other part of Kedah. The Star reported below:  

Padi farmers in Kedah on red alert

Worrying sight: A padi field in Balik Pulau, Penang, is seen dry and cracked due to the extreme hot weather. — Bernama

The Star Wednesday 07 Feb 2024
ALOR SETAR: Padi farmers in Pokok Sena, Kedah, are racing against the clock to save their crops, which are suffering in both quality and quantity.

Already, many have lost almost half their income with the padi harvest suffering due to the extreme heat in the region.

“Those who planted padi early saw a decrease in the weight of rice during harvesting,” said farmer Wan Maharuddin Sulaiman, 67.

“The rice grains are empty and there are other issues, such as padi-related diseases and pests like stemborers.

“This has affected our livelihood,” he said, adding that the land could become infertile if the sweltering heat persists.

Some are calling it the New Year heatwave and the Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) said it can only get worse in Penang, Kedah and Perlis, with temperatures reaching more than 35°C, and without rain until Sunday.

Another farmer, Che Hassan Ghaz, 40, said there was nothing much they could do about the weather.

“The water supply from Muda Agricultural Development Authority (Mada) is enough for now, but if there is no rain for another month, we must have a Plan B to ensure the crops are properly irrigated.

“Most probably we will have to pump water from nearby rivers,” he said.

As of Monday, the effective capacity of dams in Pedu, Muda and Ahning were 73.53%, 84.96% and 96.96% respectively.

These three dams are under the management and supervision of Mada.

In Pendang, Farmers Area Organisation South Pendang chairman Abdullah Mohamad said there has been no rain in several places since a month ago with Kampung Charok Kering, Sungai Jagong, Paya Mat Inson and Bakar Arang the most affected.

“Most of us have already planted our crops and are currently waiting for the next harvest.

“However, we may suffer losses of as much as 50% due to the heatwave,” he said.

Abdullah said for now, the farmers would have to pump water from nearby rivers such as Sungai Jagong and Sungai Pendang to irrigate the canals.

Mada chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Salleh urged more farmers to join the programme to have five harvests every two years to boost padi production and avoid the impact of the drought.

“Padi farmers must adhere to a planting schedule prepared by agricultural experts, right down to the specific days to begin phases such as seeding, transplanting, fertiliser and pesticide applications, and finally, harvesting.

“Currently, only about 12% of farmers have joined this programme.

“If they follow Mada’s advice, they won’t be affected by the current hot season,” he said, adding that Mada would maintain irrigation canals to help the farmers every season.

Read on here

More on the new planting schedule by MADA in MMO here. 

Another rice shortage crisis this time can take its toll on the Madani government. Anwar had taken a constructive attitude towards Syed Mokhtar and BERNAS to go abang adik. He needs to wake up.

Despite knowing Dr Mahathir to be behind Syed Mokhtar and the BERNAS concession issue is still a hot issue, the talk now is of BERNAS taking over sugar manufacturing from Felda and holds the  monopoly over the commodity. 

In the meanwhile. the endless stream of follies by the Director General of KSP, Dato Azman bin Mahmood cannot be left unnoticed. Yet sources within the Ministry claimed that he is red line and not to be touched. 

Azman is supposed to regulate the padi and rice production and industry. But yet he is a member of the Board of Directors of BERNAS, the monopoly he is supposed to disciplined. It is a blatant conflict of interest.

Azman was appointed as DG in April 2020 and BERNAS secured the 10 year extension in November 2020. 

Court document on the alleged bribe and gratification by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin channeled into Bersatu account for RM232.5 million, in which RM195 million was from Bukhary Equities, occured between March 2020 to April 2021.

It substantiate the suspicion and claims by local politicians from the Madani government side of collusion between KSP and BERNAS beyond the control of the Minister. Adding to it, Azman had a bad reputation in his days in DBKL in charge of enforcement.

Sheraton move happened in February 2020. Melaka state election on November 20, 2021, Johor state election on March 13, 2022 and 15th general election on November 19th, 2022.

Something corrupt is happening within this particular unit, but nothing can seemed to be done.  

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