With many still in B40 group, minister says previous govt failed farmers, fishermen

Datuk Salahuddin Ayub speaks to Malay Mail in Putrajaya January 23, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Salahuddin Ayub speaks to Malay Mail in Putrajaya January 23, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 10 — Datuk Salahuddin Ayub has said that the government’s policies in the last 60 years have failed Malaysia’s farmers, fishermen and smallholders because many are still caught in the bottom 40 per cent (B40).

The agriculture and agro-based industry minister said that since his first day in office some seven months ago, he has often asked “what went wrong” in the agriculture and fisheries sectors that has left many stakeholders still dependant on government aid.

“We have failed to achieve our goal as the smallholders, ranchers, farmers, and fishermen are still stuck in the B40,” he said, referring to the collective responsibility of the ministry that has been in charge of the agriculture sector since the formation of the country.

“So what went wrong? After seven months in office, I have been thinking about that,” he told Malay Mail in a recent interview.

Admitting that he would not be able to fully rectify the mistakes of the past, Salahuddin said he aims to move forward by introducing a new set of policies and direction next month to improve the welfare and overall financial situation of farmers, smallholders and fishermen.

Salahuddin also said his ministry must ensure that the nation’s granaries are fully stocked and explained that it is dealing with a far more complex problem of ensuring that food remains affordable, accessible, available and safe for the people.

“This is among my greatest challenges and it is an uphill task for me. The ministry looks at the index on a day-to-day basis to ensure that we have enough food.

“If we don’t, then we import foods. However, there is a need for a master plan in the long run to increase productivity in the country,” he said, referring to Malaysia’s food production.

Salahuddin explained that in order to increase domestic food production capabilities, four main factors need to be addressed.

“First, you have to look at government policies or even government intervention.

“Second, you need to have the private sector, both local and foreign, to come in and help boost production.

“Third, you need to strengthen SMEs (small and medium enterprises) so that they too can help. 

“Lastly, you need to improve the income of local farmers and smallholders,” he said.

Salahuddin admitted the task of increasing food production would not be easy but one that is crucial to the country’s survival.