KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Bernama) -- The government is reviewing the rolesand objectives of the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority(Risda) to increase smallholders' income under the rubber replantingscheme, the Dewan Rakyat was told Wednesday.
Deputy Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Dr Awang AdekHussin said the Risda Act 1972 is being studied with a view to amend it toprovide more avenue to Risda to boost the income of smallholders besideshelping the government to eradicate poverty.
"The main area to be given attention will be expanding Risda's functions,taking into account its involvement in downstream and upstream industriesto improve smallholders' income," he said when replying to Datuk Dr WanAzmi Wan Ariffin (BN-Sik) during question time.
Dr Awang Adek said the definition of smallholders would also be reviewedto protect the interests of genuine cases but without proper landownership documents like the Orang Asli.
Under proposed amendments to the Risda Act, the government intends to setup the Risda Trust Fund to replace the Rubber Replanting Trust Fund, hesaid.
Replying to a supplementary question from Abdul Fatah Harun (PAS-RantauPanjang) whether the move to allow some smallholders to switch from rubberto oil palm was not contrary to Risda's founding aims, Dr Awang Adek saidpermission was granted to boost smallholders' income.
He said Risda, which had been focusing on rubber replanting all thiswhile, had widened his roles and functions to cover other crops,especially oil palm.
"Although planting of oil palm to replace rubber is allowed andsmallholders are given replanting aid, the size of the replanting area isnot big.
"Switching to oil palm only involved a small hectarage. The rubberreplanting scheme this year alone costs RM115 million compared to lessthan RM10 million from rubber to oil palm," he said.
Risda is also engaged in other economic activities like rearing of goat,cattle, free-range chicken, processing of rubber tree leaves andaquaculture to supplement smallholders' income.
"All these are done to boost smallholders' income to RM2,000 a month fromtheir current average monthly income of RM1,200," he said.
Dr Awang Adek, however, said the policy to switch from rubber to oil palmmust be balanced to ensure the rubber replanting scheme continued andMalaysia's niche in rubber export was maintained.
At the same time, the switch was inevitable as income from oil palm washigher than rubber, he said.
Replying to Idris Haron (BN-Tangga Batu) whether economic activities ofyouths in rural areas could be developed in this sector, Dr Awang Adeksaid the manpower problem had been overcome with the introduction of themini-estate concept and commercial conditions.
Under the concept, mini-estates would be merged and managed by aprofessional management team under Risda's subsidiary, he said.
"Under this concept, we can ensure smallholders are enterprising and notfeel controlled," he added.