Local

Farmers worry over “pullout” of direct allocation

malaysia

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — November 7, 2018: A group representing paddy farmers is unhappy with the government’s decision to end the off-season allowance for needy farmers that was introduced by the previous administration last year.

Alluding it as uncaring, Padi Rescue group coordinator Nurfitri Amir Muhammad has questioned the government for not allocating enough funds in next year’s budget for social safety net programmes.

“Indeed, there were funds allocated for research and development, automation and training but these programmes do not benefit farmers directly. Instead the funds for these programmes will go to universities and technology companies.

“We understand the government’s intention to reform the country’s economy but was the welfare of farmers considered when the government decided on these programmes?” he asked.

In Budget 2018, an estimated 155,000 paddy farmers were given RM200 in monthly allowance for three months while waiting for the harvesting season. The then Barisan Nasional government allocated almost RM150 million for the payout.

When tabling Budget 2019 last Friday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said nothing on the allowance.

Instead Lim said the government was allocating RM47 million for grains, seeds and fruits-related research and development, RM81 million for automation of the agrofood industry and RM52 million for agrofood industry entrepreneurial and training.

However, it was only yesterday that Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub disclosed the actual allocation for the country’s entire agricultural sector, which was at RM4.417 billion, in which 69.2 per cent is for operations.

Actual budget allocation for agricultural sector

(Operations — RM3.05 billion; Development — RM1.36 billion)

Development programmes

Funding

Grains, seeds and fruits-related research and development

RM47 million

Automation of the agrofood industries

RM18 million

Agrofood industry and entrepreneurial training

RM52 million

Young agricultural entrepreneurial programmes

RM20 million

Research by Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute

RM215 million

Targeted incentive packages for fishermen

RM98.5 million

Total

RM450.5 million

While Salahuddin had called it an encouraging budget, the allocation was a significant drop of 31.2 per cent compared to that of Budget 2018, which totalled to RM6.5 billion or the highest allocation for the sector to date.

Repeated attempts for a clarification from the ministry was unsuccessful.

However, sources at two of several outfits tasked with disbursing the allowance indicated that it is highly likely the government had decided to discontinue the cash aid.

“It was not in the budget and we have not heard anything from the government. So what do you think?” was the rhetorical poser from an officer of Kedah’s Muda Agricultural Development Authority.

Those with Padi Beras Nasional Berhad echoed a similar view, adding that their last payout to farmers in Penang was last November.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]