SEBERANG PERAI, Oct 30 — The federal government should relook the Padi Cultivators (Control of Rent & Security of Tenure) Act 1967 and Farmers Organisation Authority Act 1973 that has been unchanged for over 40 years, Gooi Hsiao Leung said today.
The Bukit Tengah assemblyman added that the paddy farming industry is in need of revitalisation, but was being held back by outdated laws.
“There is an urgent need to revamp the entire system of government subsidies in the rice industry and the way it is managed to ensure that only the targeted group of farmers benefit from it,” he said in a statement.
He proposed that farmer cooperatives be freed from government control and influence in order to empower the farmers.
“Farmers must never become beholden to the government as practiced in the past so our laws must be amended and farmer cooperatives set free to organize themselves and act in their own common interest to shape and influence government policy or legislation,” he said.
He said the functioning of free and independent paddy farmer cooperatives with appropriate government financial and technical support are critical in achieving food security in the country.
The former Alor Setar MP commended the government’s decision to review Bernas’ monopoly on rice imports with plans to set up a new body or mechanism to manage the rice industry.
“For too long, left in the hands of Bernas, the management of the rice industry had been neglected by the previous government, often with special attention given only to government projects or subsidies what will enrich cronies,” he alleged.
He said he had on many occasions, as the Alor Setar MP previously, raised the plight of paddy farmers in Parliament.
He said the majority of the 300,000 paddy farmers who produce 70 per cent the country’s rice every day live in abject poverty and remain in the bottom B40 group.
Gooi added that these farmers have very little or no say in the management, leakages and excesses of bad government policies affecting them previously.
“They don’t even have right to choose what rice they can grow or fertilizers they can use,” he said.
He also commended agriculture deputy minister Sim Tze Tzin for organising a dialogue session with paddy farmers, millers and wholesalers in Kedah last weekend.
He said now that Pakatan Harapan is in Putrajaya, the new government can transform the rice industry and bring back the glory days of paddy farming.
He urged the agriculture minister to conduct a detailed study on how the government can reform the existing structures of paddy farmer cooperatives when formulating a new model or development plan for the paddy farming industry.