Paddy farmers calls on new govt to raise subsidies

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ALOR SETAR (Aug 28): Paddy farmers have called on the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to increase subsidies given to them, instead of reducing or abolishing these, as they claim the financial aid has helped improve their livelihoods and keep the industry competitive.

“If the new government can give extra subsidies to us (the paddy farmers), it will be good. We don’t mind who governs the country, but we would like to request the government of the day not to reduce or abolish subsidies given to paddy farmers.

“We want more subsidies. If the government reduces or abolishes the subsidies, this will affect the quality of paddy production and our income,” said local farmer Harun Hassan, who was met during a media familiarisation trip organised by Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) today.

Harun, 51, said current subsidies received by farmers go to funding the purchase of fertilisers, pesticides and paddy seeds, as well as tractor planting. 

"They subsidise [the replanting by] tractor at RM27 per hectare; RM300 worth of seeds for the planting of 1 tonne of paddy, and RM300 in total for the purchase of fertilisers and pesticides per planting season," he added. There are an average of three planting seasons per year, he explained.

“If they (the government) reduce or abolish our subsidies, I guarantee you we (the paddy farmers) will not buy fertilisers and pesticides. This will indirectly impact the country's stockpile. You can import the rice, but we’re Malaysians, so it is good to support our local products,” he said. 

It was previously reported that the government is considering reducing subsidies for paddy farmers, and looking at ways to increase their income through other types of crops.

Farmers’ Organisation Authority (FOA) director-general Hamzah Bahari was quoted as saying that the suggestion to reduce the current RM2,600 subsidy per ha was made because the country's current paddy production does not commensurate with the amount of subsidies given out by the government.

“(Despite this), the government will ensure that paddy farmers can increase their income by planting other crops,” he said after a meeting with the Council of Eminent Persons at Ilham Tower on June 25. FOA is a statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries.

However, Harun disagreed, saying paddy farmers are committed to the planting of paddy and will not opt for other crops.

“They [FOA] cannot say things like that. Our sole hope is on paddy. If we opt for other crops, then local paddy production will drop,” he added.