The government’s initiative to introduce five padi growing seasons in two years will not only stimulate the country’s padi productivity but it would also lift the economic standard of padi farmers in the country.

Kampung Mengkung Layar padi farmer, Nordin Deris, 67, said the initiative taken by the government is a good move which could assist farmers generate more income compared the earlier schedule.

“Several other matters need to be taken into consideration first, among them the readiness of the padi farming community to heed the call of the government.

“Here (Perlis), we are already used to planting padi two seasons a year, padi planters need more information and the appropriate agricultural input assistance to plant outside the season,” said Nordin who works a 0.5 hectare padi plot to Bernama here.

Earlier Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced the ‘MADANI Economy: Empowering the People’ initiative taken by the government to improve irrigation infrastructure in MADA areas in Kedah and Perlis.

The effort aims to increase the productivity of rice production to five seasons within two years involving infrastructure worth RM3 billion.

Similarly, a rice farmer from Sanglang Ghazali Hamid, 70, said he strongly agreed with the good proposal, but was of the view that relevant parties including the Muda Agricultural Development Authority (MADA) need to do a number of things to make it successful.

"I welcome the proposal to plant rice five times in two years, but MADA needs to be able to provide enough water for padi farmers.

"The padi fields outside the MADA irrigation also need sufficient water," he said, who cultivates an area of 11.5 hectares of padi fields.

Ghazali said apart from that, another problem that needs to be taken into account is the agreement and cooperation of all padi farmers, to avoid any conflict.

He said that it is customary to plant rice twice a year, with a rest period of several months before entering the second season.

"At that time, rice farmers in Perlis would traditionally burn straw to restore soil fertility. If the five-year rice system is implemented twice, I think rice farmers need to get technical assistance from relevant agencies so that the rice yield does not decline," he said.

Also sharing the opinion is a rice miller in Perlis, Ezreen Muhaizie Marzukhi who said the commitment shown by the government is a positive effort in increasing the country's rice yield and at the same time can help upgrade the economy of the rice farmers who on average comprise the B40 group.

"From the point of view of rice millers, this is a positive effort, the government is far-sighted in its efforts to increase domestic rice yields to reduce dependence on imported rice in the future," said Ezreen who is also the executive director of Dibuk Sdn Bhd, one of the largest rice mill operators in Perlis.

He said the factory is ready to accept padi in the off-season if there is enough minimum harvest for the factory to process.

"For me personally, the efforts by this government will ultimately benefit the rice farmers because they are the 'backbone' of this industry," he said.

Meanwhile, Persatuan Ekologi Malaysia (PEM) president Prof Dr Ahmad Ismail said Malaysia has the ability to produce enough rice for the country's needs.

"Malaysia now has a capacity of 65 per cent and needs to increase the country's rice production, the government's proposal to introduce rice production five times could reduce the country's dependence on imported rice," he said.

He said the use of appropriate technology can attract the interest of young people to go down to the fields as padi crops can be used as a profitable industry and guarantee a career.

Ahmad said universities, rice research institutions and the Department of Agriculture must work together to approach farmers so that the young generation can use new methods as modern farmers.

"Technology, artificial intelligence (AI), farmers' knowledge and skills are important in ensuring a balanced situation in terms of rice production, farmers' economy and well-being and at the same time an unpolluted environment," he said.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency