KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 (Bernama) -- The move to boost the agriculturesector as the third engine of growth after manufacturing and services is astep in the right direction towards creating high value-added agriculturaland agro-based products besides encouraging related research anddevelopment activities.
In lauding the RM300 million seed fund for the private sector to helpcommercialise agriculture, Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Tan SriDr Ahmad Zaharudin Idrus said the decision was an excellent one.
The funds would make a lot of difference, especially in encouragingpotential growth in which R&D has much to offer," Dr Zaharuddin, who isalso Joint-Chairman (Government) of the Malaysian Industry-GovernmentGroup for High Technology (MIGHT), told Bernama here Saturday.
Analysts said the move cannot take place overnight for the sector has forfar too long been largely sidelined given that it has always beencharacterised by low yields, prices and income.
This year, the sector is expected to grow by 2.8 percent and moderate to2.4 percent next year, which means the process to revitalise theagricultural sector would not be an easy process.
In the early years, much of the agricultural land was rapidly beingconverted either for commodities such as palm oil or for manufacturing andproperty development.
But now, the government has embarked on serious steps to revitalise thesector into becoming a significant growth component of the economy.
This means achieving average growth of almost 6.0 percent like servicesand 10 percent like manufacturing if agriculture aspires to emerge as thethird engine of growth.
In a bid to further strengthen agriculture and agro-based industries, thegovernment has proposed to adopt modern agricultural methods through theapplication of technology and R&D findings, including biotechnology.
By promoting the development of biotechnology, Dr Zaharudin said it wouldhelp create high value-added products in agriculture.
"This would in time raise the level of agriculture and output in theagro-based sector," he said.
Dr Zaharudin said: "We have been in agriculture for a long time, evensince before independence."
But as in all cases of industrial development, he said agriculture now hasto move one step further to again become a significant source of income tothe country.
Citing pharmaceuticals, Dr Zaharudin said the agriculture industry couldcarve a potential out of it.
Analysts said it would also go a long towards reducing the staggering foodimport bill which last year stood at RM13.9 billion.
"Having our own plants would be much more economical, as in the future wewould develop our own medicine and it would come from agriculture," hesaid.
"It is among God's greatest gifts to us (and) if we can harness thepotential of the industry, not only through R&D, but its management aspectas well, then agriculture can develop to be a major catalyst to economicgrowth, he said.