May 17, 2008 By ZULKIFLY MOHAMAD
State Agricultural and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Law Choo Kiang said the state government wanted to protect the existing 12,163ha of padi fields left in the state and to ensure they did not “disappear” from the state’s agricultural map.
“There are 3,542 padi farmers working on the fields now.
“We are facing a rice crisis and we need to be self-sufficient in the commodity and sustain supply long term.
“We will ask the relevant authorities to provide us with the necessary information so that we can propose to gazette the rice fields at the state executive council meeting,” he said.
He was speaking to reporters after chairing a meeting on issues relevant to his portfolio at the Integrated Agricultural Development Authority (Iada) office in Seberang Jaya in Butterworth on Thursday.
Law said steps must be taken now to protect padi land so that the country would not face any rice crisis.
He said land offices in the state had also been asked to gather information on abandoned land in the state so that the land could be cultivated with padi.
“We have sufficient padi fields to meet local demand for rice and we are pushing the relevant agencies to increase padi output from an average of five metric tonnes now to 10 metric tonnes per hectare by 2010,” he said.
He said the state’s annual production now was 120,000 metric tonnes of padi or 78,000 metric tonnes of rice, enough to fulfil 63% of the local demand of 123,000 metric tonnes of rice.
Law added an additional 16,000 metric tonnes of rice from Thailand and Vietnam would be delivered to Penang next week.
He said it would complement the state’s rice stock of 42,950 metric tonnes which was sufficient for the next six months.