ALOR SETAR, Feb 13 — The Large-Scale Smart Paddy Field (Smart SSB) Programme implemented since last year could help reduce farmers’ dependence on middlemen in the paddy and rice industry.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries (Mafi), Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee said the programme undertaken by the ministry would also prevent paddy farmers from being burdened with debt in carrying out their farming activity.

“In this industry, there has always been the middlemen to ease the financial burden of the farmers as they would be financing the costs incurred by the farmers. But other industries too have the presence of middlemen in obtaining loans.

“Through the Smart SBB programme, we bring together the farmers and companies collaborating with MAF in this programme, so that the farmers will not be burdened with debts as all the running costs will be borne by these participating companies.”

He said this after officiating at the Smart SSB programme at the Area Farmers Organisation (PPK), Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada) C-IV Kangkong office grounds, here, today.

At the event, he also witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Mafi and the Kedah State Zakat Board (LZNK); Mada and Padiberas Nasional Berhad (Bernas); and Mada and National Farmers Organisation (Nafas).

On the programme’s implementation in Kedah, Ronald said it involved an area of 100 hectares in Kampung Tok Jering managed by the PPK A-IV Batas Paip and 32 farmers and in Kampung Permatang Ibus under the PPK C-IV Kangkong with 11 farmers involved.

“All these farmers are involved in the programme voluntarily. It’s their own choice to participate in this programme or not. Prior to this, the only difference was that the managing of the paddy fields and costs involved were borne by the farmers themselves but through this programme, the companies involved will bear all the costs.

“The profit will go to the paddy farmers, so they need not worry and there is no arising issue of them losing their paddy land. So I hope that after this, more paddy farmers under Mada will participate in this programme to benefit themselves,” he added.

He also said that since September 2020 until now, the19 companies had signed the MoU to participate in the Smart SSB programme which targeted developing 300,000 hectares of paddy land.

“So far, 3,811 paddy farmers have benefited from this programme involving a total of 950 hectares in a number of areas including the North-west Selangor Integrated Agriculture Development Area (IADA) and Seberang Perak IADA,” he said. — Bernama