Cabinet Committee on Food Security to be set up – Ronald Kiandee

KUALA LUMPUR — A Cabinet Committee on Food Security, chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, will be established soon to, among others, formulate the National Food Security Policy, said Minister of Agriculture and Food Industry Datuk Seri Dr Ronald Kiandee.

He said the agro-food sub-sector will be the main focus in the agriculture sector in order to achieve the agenda of improving Malaysia’s food security and generating higher income for agriculture frontliners.

The focus would include strengthening the food supply chain, improving support and delivery services, enhancing technological knowledge and skills as well as promoting greater compliance to standards and good agricultural practices, he said in a statement on ‘Food Security and COVID-19: The Way Forward’ today.

He said the ministry was planning for the post-COVID-19 period by looking at various medium- and long-term solutions to help the agriculture frontliners recover from the setback caused by the pandemic.

The ministry, he said, will also continue to play a more active role in searching for new market access while at the same time bringing in investors to create economies of scale in agriculture.

With the upcoming Twelfth Malaysia Plan (RMK-12) and National Agro-Food Policy (NAFP) 2.0, the government will continue to foster modernisation in the agro-food sub-sector by leveraging on Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0), he added.

He said this is to improve food security and safety by increasing productivity, generating higher income and attracting the younger generation of agropreneurs, which will ultimately increase the contribution of total agriculture value added to gross domestic product (GDP).

He noted that among the challenges in the country’s agriculture sector were the low utilisation of mechanisation and automation, dependency on foreign workers, lack of private investment and funding, difficulty in accessing market, an unsustainable subsidy mechanism and lack of quality seeds and breeds.

“Another one of the major hurdles towards achieving food security is our dependency on the imports of meats, vegetables and fruits from temperate regions has resulted in a deficit agro-food trade balance as we spend more than RM50 billion to import these (types of) produce,” he said.

He added that the self-sufficiency level (SSL) for fruits is now at 78.4 per cent, while the SSL for vegetables is at 44.6 per cent and for meat products, 22.9 per cent.

Kiandee called for a paradigm shift in agriculture where it should no longer be viewed as a 3D (dirty, dangerous, difficult) industry, adding that the involvement of the younger generation was the key towards bringing in IR4.0 and modernising the agriculture sector in Malaysia through the adoption of the latest technologies and techniques.

He said that only 8.5% of farmers are under the age of 40 and so far the Young Agropreneur Programme under the ministry has produced more than 5,000 entrepreneurs.

He also advised the people to refrain from panic buying or stock-piling as the ministry was doing its best to keep the food supply chain intact during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.

He reminded Malaysians to acknowledge the efforts of frontliners, including those in the agriculture sector such as farmers, fishermen and food producers who are putting themselves at risk to ensure continuity of food supply during the pandemic.