KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — Datuk Salahuddin Ayub has given himself an above average score when asked to rate his performance as agriculture and agro-based industry minister since Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over the government last May.
“Rate myself? On a scale of one to 10, maybe six or seven,” he told Malay Mail yesterday.
Salahuddin said that if not for the existing obstacles faced by his ministry and the challenge of tackling them, he would have given himself a perfect score.
“There is still more to be discussed, I have to face the obstacles and hurdles in this ministry.
“Yes, it is not easy, but now I have the guts and courage, and I want to move forward,” he said.
At a press conference earlier, Salahuddin detailed how he was committed to developing and advancing three main sectors under his ministry, namely rice and paddy, fisheries and the ruminant industry.
He said there are plans to advance these industries by initiating new strategies and policies, while pushing for more investment from the private sector.
He explained how the paddy industry desperately needed to change as 90 per cent or around 100,000 farmers are currently managing land averaging only around two hectares in size.
The minister said this translated to an income of only about RM1,000 a month per farmer.
“So this gives you an idea of the constraints, where the economies of scale cannot be achieved,” he said.
Salahuddin said among the policy changes that must take place are the introduction of a ceiling price for imported white rice and the removal of all price caps for local rice produce.
He said efforts currently undertaken by the ministry included pushing for more agropreneurs to enter the sector, introducing mechanisms that will see farmers own larger land plots to increase their income and encouraging other farmers to diversify their income source with an ‘exit plan’ by growing other types of produce.
Salahuddin also touched on the ruminant industry, saying 60 per cent of imported meat was buffalo meat from India.
He said the ministry is looking mainly at diversifying its import sources, while cooperating with palm oil plantation owners and discussing possible joint breeding with cows in the farms to increase potential revenue.
“The current rate of local suppliers to the local market is only at 22 per cent. Hopefully, we can reach the level of 30 per cent from local meat sources,” he said.
As for the fisheries industry, Salahuddin said his ministry was focused on getting rid of the middlemen who stand between the fishermen and consumers.
He explained how the price of fish will fall and stabilise when the ministry takes action against the proxies, by either legalising the entire middlemen process to allow it to be regulated or introducing new economic means to market the yield.
“A special committee was approved by the Cabinet where the secretaries-general of several ministries are engaged in ongoing discussions to find ways to tackle the issue of middlemen,” he said.
He said the committee was made up of representatives from the Home Affairs, Local Government and Housing, Federal Territories and Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministries.
Salahuddin added that plans to market fish via regulated online marketplaces are also in the works, besides increasing fishermen’s markets in coastal areas as a short-term solution.