KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — Malaysia’s farmers may have “quite worrying levels” of harvest from their crops due to the hot weather and the expected transboundary haze or haze originating from other countries, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad has said.
Nik Nazmi, who earlier this month told Parliament that Malaysia is expected to have a weak El Nino weather condition, reportedly said that lower crop yields could then result in food prices going up.
“For the farming sector... the yields have suffered. Drier weather with higher temperatures have impacted (food supply) on a global scale. We have just seen a severe increase in prices of food as countries exit from Covid-19 and because of the (Ukraine) war. Now we are seeing that in climate change as well.”
“So that’s why when people like to say that climate change or environmental issues have nothing to do with bread-and-butter items, I correct them and say that it has everything to do,” he was quoted saying in a recent interview with news outlet Channel News Asia (CNA).
Nik Nazmi reportedly said Malaysians may underestimate the impact of hot weather, saying that Malaysians are used to the heat but all recognise now that the heat is unusual with the hot days being longer and temperatures getting higher.
Nik Nazmi said there are existing guidelines available on how to deal with the weather in the coming months and perhaps a refresher is needed, also reportedly saying that his ministry wants to work with government agencies on guidelines, such as on outdoor activities when the temperature is too high or when the air quality reaches an unhealthy level.
Universiti Malaya’s meteorologist Datuk Azizan Abu Samah was reported saying by CNA that El Nino will result in less rainwater and excessive heat and cause many crops to shrivel up.
Naviin Thiagaran, a vegetable farmer in Kota Tinggi, Johor, reportedly told CNA that his farm’s crop yields are lower due to the heat, as they have to cut down on work and take more breaks with scheduled time to drink water every 10 minutes.
“Because of the heat and the haze, it’s inevitable that farmers can’t be as productive. Early signs are that output could drop by as much as 40 to 50 per cent on our farm,” he was quoted saying, expecting lesser output even with measures he had taken such as putting up UV-resistant plastic sheets over the crops to deflect heat.
Jerome Ragavan, a vegetable farmer in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan using the hydroponics system, reportedly said haze cuts off sunlight and disrupts photosynthesis, while warmer weather from El Nino would lead to more unhealthy algae growing in the root system.
Predicting he will have 30 per cent less production which would translate to 30 per cent less income, he told CNA that he will shift his farm’s working hours to avoid exposure to the heat, saying: “We will work after 4–5pm and then work until 8pm, the working hours will be shifted a bit.”