Malaysia: Aid for agricultural sub-sectors

KOI KYE LEE New Straits Times 25 Mar 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: An emergency action plan to mitigate the impact of the heatwave brought about by the El Nino phenomenon has been activated to help those in the agricultural sector.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said under the plan, three sub-sectors would be prioritised. They were plantations, livestock and fisheries.

He told the New Straits Times yesterday that the ministry had put in place an aid scheme to assist those affected by the heatwave.

“For those in the plantation sector, 281 tube wells, meant for irrigation purposes, would be built across the peninsula and would take no longer than a month to complete.”

Tajuddin said the development of the irrigation wells would be focused on states that were badly affected by the heatwave: Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.

Asked on the allocation provided to build the tube wells, he said it would cost about RM4 million as this was meant for irrigation and water supply for agro-food activities.

Tajuddin said for this year, the ministry had allocated RM20 million, plus an additional RM4 million for irrigation and water supply, to help those in the agricultural sector.

It is learned that the allocation was in addition to the Integrated Agricultural Development Area in Kerian, which would include an advanced screw-pump system costing RM43 million.

Aside from the wells, Tajuddin said, 1,718 mobile high-capacity pumps would be provided to affected farms.

“This is an alternative solution. The ministry will provide them to water the farms and it depends on the needs of each location and state.”

These pumps can pump between 85 litres per second and 140 litres per second of water and are used in farming sectors.

Tajuddin said the ministry had halted the exports of fish like kembong, selayang selar, cencaru and pelaling, so there would be a sufficient stockpile for Malaysians.

“Because of the high temperatures, trawlers from the east coast states to Sarawak are permitted to follow the pelagic fish migration (route) as this will increase their catch.”

On aqua culture and fish farming, Tajuddin said the ministry had recommended recycling water to minimise the strain on water pumps, and an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture programme to upkeep fish stock more efficiently.

He said the ministry had distributed aid packs, containing vitamins and energy supplements, to its field officers to be handed to poultry farmers to ensure sufficient water supply for those raising free-range livestock.

“Livestock needs adequate drinking water.

“We will provide water troughs in grazing lands in the peninsula,” said Tajuddin.

Asked if the ministry would provide additional aid to those in the agriculture sector, he said it would depend on the situation.

“For the disbursement of wang ehsan (compassionate fund), we will need to see how serious the situation is before making a decision.”

Rantau Panjang farmers in dire need of rain
SYED AZHAR The Star 26 Mar 16;

RANTAU PANJANG: Farmers here may face a possible water crisis if it fails to rain within the next few weeks as the water level at the Bukit Kwong dam here is depleting by the day.

The dam’s management said the water level had dropped below 30% of its capacity since Thursday.

“This means that by the end of April, unless it rains heavily, the dam will be bone dry.

“The farmers around the area will suffer as they have to find alternative water sources to irrigate their plots,” said a spokesman.

The dam, which supplies water for irrigation within the Rantau Panjang area, is the main source of water for the farmers.

It does not supply water for domestic consumption.

A report on Wednesday stated that water capacity at four out of 20 dams monitored by the Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) nationwide were at a critical level as of Monday.

The four are Bukit Kwong in Kelantan at 27.9% capacity, Padang Saga in Langkawi (38%), Labong in Johor (14.3%) and Timah Tasoh in Kangar (38.8%).

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the other dams recorded water levels at between 53% and 100%.

He added that the ministry, along with other relevant agencies, had been enhancing prevention efforts against open burning, which could potentially cause haze.

The efforts include banning open burning throughout the country since Jan 12.

Between early this year and March 19, a total of 703 open burning cases were detected nationwide involving forest, agriculture, industry and landfill areas, as well as construction sites.

Paddy farmers, rubber tappers feel the heat in northern Malaysia
Malaysia's Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry says it is studying how best to help farmers affected by this hot and dry spell, which it says has been brought on by El Nino.
Sumisha Naidu, Malaysia Correspondent, Channel NewsAsia 26 Mar 16;

KEDAH: At a rubber estate in the northern Malaysian state of Kedah, a man has slumped to the ground, exhausted.

79-year-old Ibrahim Ismail has been tapping rubber trees at his small family estate in Jitra for 38 years - but the heat of the past few weeks has been the worst he's ever experienced.

"It's so hot, I can't do it anymore," he complains, before moving on to tap the next tree.

But in this heat, the trees aren't producing as much of the milky latex as usual either.

A few kilometres away, paddy farmers are worrying about the weather's impact on yields too.

Paddy is the third most planted crop in Malaysia, fulfilling some 70 per cent of the domestic demand for rice.

Kedah and neighbouring Perlis are known as the nation's "ricebowl states", producing more than half of the country's homegrown supply.

But these rice bowls have been brown and dry lately - and farmers like Mat Adam Hanapiah worry their output will suffer if there's not more rainfall by planting season in April.

"Sowing during the dry season is possible but the risk to the paddy is too high," he tells Channel NewsAsia.

"When it's too dry, the saplings can't come up...they become really dry."

Malaysia's Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry says it is studying how best to help farmers affected by this hot and dry spell, which it says has been brought on by El Nino.

The ministry has already taken emergency measures including ordering more than 1,700 mobile water pumps to be sent across the country to help with irrigation of crops.

- CNA/sk