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 Norsaidatul Najwa Mohd Shaharmi
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 New Straits Times
 Settlers turn to high-yield crop

New Straits Times (09/03/2020) KUALA LUMPUR: Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) has turned to the likes of roselle, pineapple, banana, figs and jackfruits to help generate an extra income of between RM300 and RM1,000 a month for its settlers.

The fruits farming is under Program Pembangunan Peneroka (PPP), which in turn is part of Felda’s new cash crop scheme to rejuvenate the agency and boost settlers income.

Felda director-general Datuk Dr Othman Omar said the agency was provided with a RM1 billion grant by the government to put it on track to return to its glory days in five years.

Othman said the smart farming comprises three approaches namely monocrop, intercrop and integration crop.

It focuses on high-yield crops such as roselle, figs, pineapple, papaya, banana, jackfruit and vegetables.

“We want to create a sustainable ecosystem in the settlers’ community where all the settlers can be more motivated to do the smart-farming and cash crop. This will, in turn, attract the new generation to participate in this agriculture project,” he told the New Straits Times recently.

Felda and its settlers have been affected by weak crude palm oil (CPO) price, which averaged at RM2,100 to RM2,300 per tonne last year.

“Hence, we are looking at how to alleviate the problem (CPO price volatility) to reduce the settlers dependency on CPO,” he added.

Othman said the programme was aimed at alternatives crops with shorter maturity period to provide multiple incomes for Felda settlers while minimisingoperationalise cost.

“Therefore, they can have higher yields per hectare and get a higher return on investment (ROI),” he added.

He said the programme would help settlers to increase their land output while optimising yields per acre to enable them to earn a decent income and eventually become self-reliant.

“This is to prepare the next generation of Felda settlers for the future of agriculture through training and technology to be innovative and self-sustainable.”

A total of 112,635 Felda settlers can participate in the programme via KoperasiPermodalanFelda (KPF), which will then form a consortium comprising 289 cooperatives under the scheme.

“Settlers can also earn more income from this programme as they can go into downstream packaging or bottling on their own,” he said.

To date, the government had disbursed RM37 million for the programme after thorough research was done to determine the types of activities suitable for settlers to get better ROI and yield per hectare.

“We have identified seven upscaling projects with 21 potential projects under the programme. The land area is not critical as some of the projects do not require big land,” Othman said.

The first pioneer project began in November last year. It included raising rabbits (modular cage system), leafy greens, roselle, broiler, fava beans and cattle integration.

“The project will house all the livestock and cash crop, spanning across 31.16 acres in Bukit Rokan, Negri Sembilan.”

Other projects have also been added such as a greenhouse set for fertigation, earthen ponds for aquaculture projects and a big scale papaya farm.

Othman said the programme would help bring back Felda into its glory days, contributing towards the nation’s food security.

Malaysia imports between RM40 billion and RM50 billion of raw foods annually.

“We are not just looking to diversify to increase productivity and yields only. We want to be a game-changer in the agriculture industry with newer agricultural innovations which increase yield, efficiency and manage costs.

“We aim to be the nation’s leader in food production by 2023 and smart farming is key to achieving this goal,” he added.

Felda’s diversification, he said, was poised to transform its settlers as major food producers for the nation, if not the world.

“We are planning to make our presence felt with positive involvement throughout the supply chain. We will show that our involvement will translate better value not just for the industry but also for the consumer.

“We will have a good amount of production based on market demand, not crashing the market. We will also like to cater to a specific niche market that is underserved,” he added.

Felda also adapts the Internet of Things (IoT) to push for smart farming with wireless sensors placed in farms.

This allows farmers to control irrigation, moisture levels, pest stress, soil conditions, and micro-climates through automation, which will maximise yields, save water and energy while conserving the environment.

Under PPP, Felda has also initiated several other projects. This included integrated cattle breeding in AnjungTeduh by a settler, Bakri Pawerdi.

Bakri is generating some RM3 million revenue a year.

His success was a testament that such project was capable of generating additional sustainable income, Othman said.

Based on this potential, he said Felda would support other settlers to replicate the livestock model.

“We are developing a module based on this project with Bakri as a model to be replicated by other Felda settlers. To ensure the success of the settlers who choose integrated livestock rearing to diversify their crop, we will provide the necessary tools such as training, funding and equipment to help them start this project quickly and ensure a higher chance of success,” he added.

Another success story is a 17-acre Daruma agro farm at FeldaSahabat 1 managed by Fadzly Sultan, a settler’s son.

The farm is focused on cultivating dragon fruits which are marketed in Sabah and Sarawak.

Othman said the project produced a gross income of RM78,000 annually.

It can also be replicated by other settlers as part of the PPP, he added.

Read more at https://www.nst.com.my/business/2020/03/572978/settlers-turn-high-yield-crop

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