Collaboration Create a Sea Change in Malaysia Rice Industry

Rice is part of Malaysian culture in which Malaysians consume many rice-based foods such as Nasi Lemak, Bihun Goreng and Laksa. Based on OECD-FAO, in average Malaysia rice consumption is 87.5kg/person above world’s average consumption while Malaysia only produces 70% of the demand. Since the gap between production and demand of rice will be expected to increase due to the increase of Malaysia population, a revolution in Malaysia rice industries is needed to reduce the gap. This article will discuss the challenges of the Malaysian rice industry and the initiative to revolutionize this industry.

Development of Rice Industry For Domestic Production

During the British colonial government in Malaysia, the agricultural policies focused more on commercial export commodities such as rubber, oil palm and cocoa. Since paddy cultivation was done only for domestic production, it was only cultivated by small-scale Malay farmers and this caused the rice self-sufficient level (SSL) production below 50%. After Malaysia’s independence, agricultural policies started to focus on domestic interest including the development of paddy cultivation. Government started to establish a dedicated agricultural research institution called MARDI in 1969 and also the formation of key granary areas to improve paddy cultivation and rice production. A few years later, a lot of government bodies and agencies were established to support the farmer, to oversee the adequate supply of rice and meet SSL targets. Through these 30 years, Malaysia increased SSL production by around 60% to 70%. However, there are still few challenges in the Paddy industry that slows the progress of this industry’s development.

Malaysia Rice consumption and production graph based on Khazanah Research Institute Report.

Technology to Increase Productivity of Small-Scale Cultivation

One of the challenges faced by the paddy cultivation industry in Malaysia is the limited area for paddy cultivation and small land sizes of paddy farming by some farmers. Even though the rural landscape covers 52% of Malaysia’s land mass, not all landscape is suitable for rice cultivation. Rice cultivation requires large areas of flat land with large supplies of fresh waters and Malaysia had a limited number of those areas. Another challenge was that the farmers received lower income because of the low yields due to small-scale farming, poor farm management, and poor solution to climate change, diseases and pests. Since Malaysia rice consumption is expected to increase but resources being limited for cultivation, new innovation and technology are required to increase the production and quality of rice in Malaysia. 

Collaboration is The Key For Transformation of the Industries

Through our world history, the revolution of industry and agriculture cannot be separated with involvement of researchers and scientists. New findings and technologies proposed by researchers help to improve productivity and revolutionize industries. Even in Malaysia, a lot of researchers and startups are now providing a solution for the challenges faced by paddy farmers. For example, Putra Agro Tech Sdn Bhd startups from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) have produced new varieties of paddy super seed called PadiU Putra 1. This Super Seed helps farmers to increase their yield and resistance to blast disease. Based on the feedback from Paddy farmers that have tested with their super seed, paddy farmers were able to increase their production from 5 tonnes/hectare into 14 tonnes/hectare which is two times increase of their production. Another solution offered by Malaysian startup, Aerodyne Group, which is providing Agrimor services that help farmers to monitor crop health, which can help in increasing productivity. Since most Malaysian paddy farmers currently lack the knowledge to detect paddy disease effectively, with the technology of drones and AI, it can help the farmer to detect and identify the affected area of the disease earlier. Here are only some of the solutions provided by researchers and startups in Malaysia to solve the problem faced by farmers. However, there is a lot more research done by universities and research institutes to solve various issues in paddy industries but adoption of the technology and innovations is still limited. This is because adoption of new technology and innovation requires high capital for the farmers. Introducing this researcher and startup with Key Granary areas management or downstream companies that have contracts with the farmers can become one of the initiatives that can be done to discuss the adoption of those technologies to the farmer. At the same time, awareness to the farmer about the importance of adapting this new technology through training and education. 

Drone application in Paddy fields can help farmers to improve their productivity.

Prosperity Sharing with Farmers

As Malaysia’s population is continuing to grow but the land for Paddy cultivation being limited, it is very important for Malaysia to revolutionize this rice industry to reduce the gap of production and consumption. It will not only help the farmer to increase their yield and improve the quality of rice but it will also help to improve their income and reduce poverty among the farmers. The involvement of researchers and startups with the support from investors and government will help to revolutionize Paddy cultivation and development of this industry in Malaysia.

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