KOTA KINABALU, Sept 21 (Bernama) -- The government will prioritise threethrust areas -- productivity, efficiency and competitiveness -- as part ofthe strategies and policies under the Third National Agricultural Policy(NAP3) to address high dependency on imports.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Datuk Seri KerkChoo Ting said that the policy called for accelerated transformation ofthe agriculture sector into a dynamic commercial sector, emphasisingefficient farm management and enterprises.
"Efforts to further liberalise the agriculture sector will be intensifiedand food security issues rationalised.
"The policy also called for increased exports of higher value addedagricultural products such as floriculture as well as fruits andvegetables," he said when opening the National Food Technoloy Seminar2004, here, Tuesday.
Kerk said that the import of food and other agriculture producecontributed to 8.4 percent of the total imports valued at RM25.8 billionin 2003.
"This high dependency on imports is a matter of concern and that's why thegovernment has drawn further strategies and policies under NAP3 to addressthe issues," he said.
He said that Malaysia's goal is to be a leading food producer globally bythe next five years, and in to order achieve this, the agriculture sectormust take immediate steps to transform itself.
To ensure that Malaysia is on the right track, the ministry had introducedthe Balance of Trade (BOT) plan to reduce food deficit, and efforts toincrease competitiveness of the products are enhanced, among others,through Malaysian Farm Accreditation Scheme (SLAM) and introduction of thebranding of "Malaysia's Best," he added.
"We hope these initiatives will meet both local and foreign market needsand our products will be globally competitive," he said.
Kerk said that the agriculture sector in Malaysia had been the core sectorof the Malaysian economy for many years, starting from independence in1957.
Apart from its strategic role of providing food for the nation, theagricultural sector is also an important source of employment, albeit on adeclining scale for the more traditional type of agriculture, he said.
"More importantly, however, agriculture sector is seen as a vital sectorfor the attainment of national unity. The underlying issue concerns therelatively high incidence of poverty in the sector as compared to othersectors.
"Policies and programmes have been formulated to address the enhancementof income of agriculture producers in order to reduce the incidence ofpoverty in agriculture and to minimise the intersectoral disparity andinequity between agriculture and non-agriculture," he said.
Speaking to reporters later, Kerk said that Sabah has vast potential infood or agriculture production especially palm oil, cocoa, herb andflowers.
"It also has plenty of resources and as far as the fishing industry isconcerned...it is underdeveloped and I think we need to tap on this notonly for the local market but also abroad," he said.