Sabah aims to boost fishing, farming with new agri blueprint

Shafie says food farming, as well as value-adding downstreaming activities, are the way forward for Sabah. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Shafie says food farming, as well as value-adding downstreaming activities, are the way forward for Sabah. ― Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 5 — Sabah’s agriculture blueprint for the next 10 years aims to double the sector’s contribution to the state economy, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said.

The new blueprint is aimed at bringing jobs to the youths and business opportunities to the community through transforming traditional farming concepts into a high-yield, high technology agriculture that will also bring food security to the state.

“I am confident that, not only is it possible for agriculture to contribute up to 40 per cent to the state’s income, but the spillover and multiplier is also tremendous and will generate much more opportunities for the state in a lot of other sectors, and in turn contribute to the state’s GDP,” said Shafie.

Shafie said that Sabah could no longer rely on its timber and oil-and-gas industries.

Food farming as well as value-adding downstreaming activities are the way forward given the current trend of growing population, he said.

“But we have to realise the blueprint now. Environmental changes are happening, we need the complete infrastructure in place, we need to be ready in case for unforeseen eventualities like floods or fires which could wipe out of crops.

“In the event of externalities, we have to be ready. We need a buffer, not just 20 per cent, but maybe 30 or even 40 per cent,” he said.

In his speech, he said among the policies and proposals in place were to encourage local youths to stay in the state and open fish farms in coastal areas, breeding high value fish like hoi tai kai or humphead wrasse that was a specialty in the east coast district of Tawau.

“Not only is it a high yield product, but you don’t need billions worth of subsidies for boats, trawlers, nets, diesels to do this. It is also along the coast, so there is no danger of pirates,” he said, adding that it would also stop the migration of Sabahan youths to other cities.

He said other high value produce like seaweed and birds nest would help launch Sabah’s name as a quality food producer not just domestically but also for import.

“Sabah’s vast lands are highly fertile, volcanic soil that could take to high technology to optimise production of everyday food like chillies, tomatoes and other vegetables.

“Moving forward, as society looks for healthy, fresh foods, Sabah can also tap into its potential as they are strategically placed in the region to export its produce like durian, pomelo, pineapples, birds nest, seaweed and other fish,” he said.

He said that Sabah could potentially be competition for Thailand a country known for its agricultural produce in the region, due to its proximity to countries like China, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

The blueprint also puts emphasis on investment in research and development, and marketing to help ensure products were optimally produced and marketed.

In the year 2010 to 2017, the agriculture sector contributed some 24 per cent to the state’s GDP, the highest contributed after its services sector, including tourism, which contributes some 40 per cent.

In 2018, some half a million of the state’s 1.3 million labour force — or 38 per cent — were involved in the agriculture sector, underlying the importance of the industry to the state.

Aside from its tourism, Sabah previously relied on its oil and gas sector as well as palm oil — it is the largest palm oil producer in the country — for a big part of its GDP.

With commodity prices slumping, the state has had to rethink its direction into the upstream and downstream industries but players have complained of a lack of logistical support.

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