Malaysia: Farmers feeling the heat

PETALING JAYA: The healthy steamed fish dishes that Malaysians enjoy will likely be pricier soon in view of the RM20mil losses suffered by Malaysia’s marine fish farms industry due to rising temperatures.

Marine Fish Farmers Association deputy president Mohamed Razali Mohamed said the hot weather had taken its toll on Malaysia’s marine fish farming, which is the largest in South-East Asia.

“Groupers, snappers and barramundi are dying in cages due to the red tide or the growth of algae, which competes with the fish for oxygen,” he said.

“Just last month, 100 tonnes of fish worth RM4mil that were destined for both local and overseas markets were wiped out in fish farms in Pulau Kukup in Johor.”

Mohamed Razali said the hot weather had encouraged algae to bloom in the shallow water, pushing up fish mortality.

Most of the 2,000 fish farms in the country operate in shallow water and protected bays, using about 100,000 wooden cages.

In 2014, Malaysia produced 64,000 metric tonnes of marine fish worth RM1.2bil.

Mohamed Razali said export earnings from grouper and snapper, which are also sold to restaurants in Hong Kong, China and Singapore, amounted to RM400mil annually.

To escape the red tide, fishermen who could afford it were investing on high-density polyethylene cages so that they could relocate their farms to deeper waters.

These cages, which are also used for salmon farming in Norway, can withstand rough seas and weather but cost up to RM10,000 each.

Perak Animal Husbandry Association president Tan Kuang Liang, whose members include 128 pig farmers, said the lack of water due to the hot spell was a major concern.

Pigs needed to be hosed down daily to keep them cool, he said, fearing that a prolonged water shortage may increase mortality.

“The price of pork is stable now but any impact on the market will be felt in six to eight months,” he said, adding that the hot spell was “unprecedented”, leading to reduced appetite and birth rates among the animals.

Malaysian Federation of Ruminant Breeders Association chairman Samad Kassim said livestock would get stressed, leading to lower beef and milk production.

Farmers had to spend more on supplements and vitamins for their livestock, he said, adding that the dry weather which led to grass drying up was another headache.

Samad, who operates a dairy farm with 300 heads of cattle in Kota Kemuning, said milk production was down by 20% to 30%.

“Farmers have to absorb these losses. Personally, I have had to spend another RM5,000 or RM6,000 a month on supplements for my cows,” he said.

Federation of Livestock Farmers’ Associa­tion of Malaysia president Jeffrey Ng said poultry farmers who breed in open houses or free range were worse off as unlike closed door farming, there was no way to control the temperature.

Crop insurance to protect farmers from risks
The Star 5 Apr 16;

PETALING JAYA: The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry will soon introduce “crop insurance” to protect farmers from risks linked to climate change such as drought, diseases and floods.

“In its first phase, the crop insurance will cover only padi. Later, it will include other agriculture activities such as livestock, agro-food commodities such as fruits and vegetables as well as the fisheries sector,” said minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

The insurance, he said, would make the agriculture sector more attractive to investors and give the farmers peace of mind, knowing that they were protected from the risk of any unfortunate eventualities.

Ahmad Shabery said the ministry had identified strategies to increase export and control imports such as intensifying production and efficiency, enhancing the competitiveness of Malaysian products and developing import substitution, which included changing Malaysian lifestyles to create more demand for local products.

“We also import a vast amount of animal feed such as soy and maize. We will explore how these can be grown on our own farms.”

Ahmad Shabery said the ministry would carry out a mid-term review of the National Agro-Food Policy (NAP) soon.

NAP outlines the directions for agro-food development from 2011 to 2020. It has generally taken into account the effects of climate change.

“Although the main reason for the mid-term review is to evaluate our current achievements compared to what we have planned before, new challenges such as climate change and new opportunities such as exports of our agro-food will also be considered,” he said.

Ahmad Shabery said the review would take into account food sovereignty as the country must not only be able to produce its own food but also be able to export it.

“History has proven that in times of war or peace, the sovereignty of a nation can be easily crippled by its over-dependence on foreign sources of food,” he said.

But he said that Malaysia has adequate food items with self-sufficiency levels (SSL) for fish, vegetables and poultry being at least 90% despite the hefty food import bill.

The SSL for rice, a staple food for Malaysians, is about 70% and the remainder includes special varieties such as fragrant, basmati, brown and glutinous rice.

For other food items such as poultry, the SSL stands at 105%, eggs (120%), fruits (100%), fish (90%), vegetables (90%), beef (28%) and milk (13%).

But he conceded that much of the food consumed by Malaysians was still imported.

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