Transformation of local agricultural produce must aim for bigger market
Released Date : 5 October 2016
Posted By: Admin
Essentially, the development of agriculture cannot stop at the traditional style. It must be modernised in order to drag more people into some form of organisation to feed a bigger and growing market. The world’s demand for commodities is growing as the population increases every year.
Hence, the question of how to produce more things in the same place where the people are consuming is a big challenge. Sometimes, things must come from distant places. Things are produced not only to be consumed locally but to be sent to places where they are needed the most. Besides, nations have to export their products to other countries in order to earn some revenues.
In the case of Sarawak, it still has to import about 70% of its rice from Thailand, Vietnam and India and about 80% of its meat, mainly beef and mutton, from New Zealand, Australia or even Netherland.
The Yang di PertuaNegeri, TunPehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his speech during a youth camp organised by Sarawak Unity Board and Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) in Sempadi, Lundu, said any transformation in the local products must have the aim of a bigger market.
The youth camp “Camp United” was attended by youth, “representatives from generations of the future” from many African countries including Zimbabwe, Botswana and East European countries, who were studying in local institutions of higher learning.
Tun Abdul Taib believed if the local products could be sold in the world market, they could expand almost indefinitely for some time. That was how Malaysia had been producing traditional commodities like rubber, palm oil and later on, other small things, which were also expanding.
Essentially, the production of things must be well organised. It must have links with the market in order to succeed in the modernisation of agriculture. Therefore, most of the national or state agricultural policies cannot stop at the level of production.
They must tackle the problem of marketing as well. Hence, Malaysia has many organisations that organise the market for the growers. Besides, the state must learn to develop the technique of how to make agriculture viable commercially. Essentially, it required a system and an organisation. This is why a lot of developing countries cannot move forward because they cannot come up with a system and the organisation to get their products out and organise a market for them. Besides, they must agree to make their market for products from other counties once they can make more money from it.
In this regard, the people, who manage commercial activities related to the basic economy, should look outward not only to sell their products but to buy products from other people. This is how Malaysia is being developed.
Tun Abdul Taib said the state was at the stage of development where people wanted change. When he first started in politics, people did not want change and he had to persuade them to change. Now they have not only changed but they want changes as fast as possible. And that is the problem of most developing countries today.
Now the question is how to get the people to participate to make changes to make development continuous and relatively smooth. The word participation is very important. The people must realise whatever change takes place must be supported by their thorough understanding of it.
More importantly, they must take some responsibility to make the change smooth and beneficial to the community as much as possible. In this regard, they must endeavour to put something in its place as it takes a lot of feeling of comfort among the people. Otherwise, the comfort, as in other countries, will be gone and the people will become restless.
Tun Abdul Taib, who served as the Chief Minister of Sarawak for 33 years from 26 March, 1981 to 28 February, 2014, believed in giving public explanations about development to spare the people from getting confused. In such a situation, some people will work with the government while some of them will refuse to do so as they perceive that development should be carried out fast. This is common trend in developing countries.
He said in the case of Malaysia, Sarawak in particular, the government had to keep in keep in touch with the people on development. It must create the atmosphere that makes development a fundamental exercise in bringing the people for change.
In the process of change, the people must do their part not just to support leaders but to work with them in the process of development. Admittedly, it is harder to get the people to work with their leaders. It is just like trying to compress what normally takes before the war probably two or three generations into one generation.
Therefore, there must be greater interactions between the people and their leaders who must get them involved in the process of development.
Tun Abdul Taib recalled Sarawak used to have members of the public, who were mostly illiterates. However, explanations by leaders and their closeness to the people on the ground helped the latter to participate in development.
Generally, they managed to create an atmosphere, which was relatively quite harmonious to get the people to change with the drift of time. The first part was to get the people to understand and support their leaders in implementing what could be done by the people mainly through the concept of “gotongroyong” or the concept of mutual assist.
Tun Abdul Taib recalled in the early days while carrying out the campaign for change, he had to persuade the people to understand what was going on in the simplest term. After that, they slowly followed the government with the basic idea of how they could participate in the process.
He used to have a poem of two lines of GotongRoyongSamaSekampung, RugiUntung Kita Tanggung,which literally means “lets put in our efforts together to do things rather than being bystanders or as somebody, who stand by the side within our village or a small unit of settlement where the people interact with each other. “Of course, rugiuntung means they may fail or may succeed and should be responsible for the outcome.
He said it is very important for the people to feel that they have the responsibility to make development work and that is by participation. They should not go counter to the programme of the government in the form of launching small development projects and working with government officers.
At least, they must listen and give a chance for the idea to work either by accepting quietly or if they don’t agree from their experience, they could say it out through discussions in a positive manner.
Basically, development cannot take place without the participation of the people or without the acceptance of the people. Getting the people to accept development was not easy, particularly at the early stage because they were quite illiterate. Therefore, conscientious efforts had to be made to get them to understand from the very beginning what they had to do to make a success of any project.
Tun Abdul Taib believed in working together with the people to preserve the spirit of harmony and giving them an idea of what could affect them in their kampung or area. This took time but once the people accepted the idea, they would follow and do their part in the process of development.
In the early days, the state used to have minor rural projects to get the people to work on small projects, which contained as much as possible efforts of the people. The state government would give them money or raw materials for such projects. The most common projects were the building of roads between kampung so that people could move fast among them.
Even then, the people had learnt to produce many things but were limited by market concept. They could not sell their products outside their own kampung and could not fetch good prices for them. They would stop producing things the moment they could produce enough for the kampung or for the village. However, once they had roads, they were encouraged to work together to produce more things, which they could sell outside their village. They were encouraged to aim for higher things to sell them outside their own villages or longhouses.
As a consequence, a few of them found out that they had to do more than just producing things. They had to learn how to preserve things, transport their products and co-operate among themselves for common benefits. That was the simple beginning of an economic life for the people in a kampung or longhouse in the old days.
Tun Abdul Taib said the people started to value working together in a kampung or a basic unit of a society as a way to increase production and establish links with the market which could grow through production, marketing and processing of products. Of course, the products must go to towns which had factories and people converging in them.
However, the people in a basic unit of the society must learn to co-operate among them to produce more things and learn how to sell them outside their own areas in order to get good prices for their products. That was when the farmers learnt to work together.
However, a co-operative society, with the primary objective to get people to work together, could not be sustained because not “everybody can lead nor should everybody try to lead to avoid confusion”. Therefore, it must have members who could lead and learn how to compete with other people.
More importantly, the members must recognise the leadership and a sense of respect for people who provide it. Every country has got this ladder of leadership from the very high up in the country down to towns and villages. However, the leadership must focus on bringing the people together in the process of getting their products to be marketed properly. That is the essence of economic development of how to bring products from a kampung or longhouse to bigger markets in towns.
When people can get more money from their products, they will be motivated to increase production and work together to deliver their products to the market. When they can produce and sell more, they will develop a new way of co-operation to increase production more efficiently.
Tun Abdul Taib recalled one of the hardest things the government had to do was to conquer the distance between people in the upper reaches of rivers to towns.
In the old days, almost every longhouse or kampung had a shop that was run by a guy, who was perceived as a rich person. But the fact was he could never make business in a longhouse of 50 families to become rich.
However, he helped the people, who were mostly farmers, to bring their products from the longhouse to towns in order to get good prices. Those were the beginning of links from the traditional and backward pattern of producing agricultural produce for self - consumption and producing more to cater for the needs of other people.
However, the process would have to go through one market system that could increase the consumption of people, which is the basic idea of unifying activities of people at the kampung level with those in towns.
Tun Abdul Taib, who was once the Minister of Primary Industries during his service of 13 years in the federal cabinet, said Malaysia was, initially, a rubber producer. After that, it became a palm oil producer. The two commodities helped to make Malaysia very prosperous.
He said the country started to produce palm oil in anticipation that the demand for oil could not be met by the normal traditional source, namely, the old style oil production. For example, oil from fish and other small things could not be produced fast enough to meet the requirement of the people. So the country decided to produce palm oil in a big quantity, much more than those produced in West African countries through a more efficient system. The country has been fortunate to have entrepreneurs or people who could understand bigger market conditions.
Tun Abdul Taib said rubber and palm oil, which started very small, grew to become big commodities because the country had access to the world market. Actually, the country had been trained to participate in the world market well before the Second World War.
He believed towns in Sarawak would grow bigger in a more organised way as people with more money could buy more things through the modernisation of agriculture towards the year 2030. As a consequence, the state will have commerce both ways.
But the farmers cannot become rich unless they are ambitious. In a lot of countries where the marketing or the business side of agriculture is not developed, farmers cannot increase their production. But in places where the market touches the lives of farmers, they have become very ambitious. They produce more and better quality products. Besides, they also watch how they can produce things that they used to buy from outside. So that is the beginning of manufacturing. This is the general pattern of the development that entails market functions, which can become more sophisticated commercial activities of developing countries. Tun Abdul Taib believed the development of other things like commercialisation and manufacturing must have a programme of educating young people to prepare themselves to shoulder all the changes in future. Obviously, they must be given good incentives and better profits in whatever activities they do towards achieving the desired objectives.
In this regard, young people, as agents of change, must have an open mind to accept and institute changes as everything has got to change in pursuit of progress and advancement. Otherwise, the country cannot progress.
Obviously, the education system must be enhanced in order to create more people with knowledge, skills and expertise because specialsation will come up more and more. Therefore, the country must be able to produce more people with expertise to tackle the more sophisticated aspects of commerce and production methods to increase input in agriculture.
In this regard, agriculture must be nursed with knowledge that can induce greater production and make people come alive with activities to exploit whatever they find as the subject matter of commerce. That is how the country is being developed from an agricultural economy to become an overall industrialised economy.
Besides, young people must work for change in the process of development. Generally, young people in all countries of the world want change and better things. Hence, efforts must be made to translate change into productivity.
However, the work of getting productivity rests with the people, who are actually producing things and providing services. Hence, they should move up the efficiency of producing things in a better way.
In this regard, young people must arm themselves with knowledge to increase productivity and make production cheaper so that the products can reach wider markets in order to create new opportunities in commerce and business in the country.
The Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy, which is a merger of three former Ministries, namely, the Ministry of Modernization of Agriculture (MOMA), the Ministry of Land Development (MLD) and part of the Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), is focusing on economic programmes that will contribute to the objective of raising rural incomes and increasing export earnings as well as food security and sustainability.
It has already established a strategic rural economy task force to ensure improved coordination, better integration and greater effectiveness, under a single chain of command in the overall efforts to transform the rural economy.
Currently, the rural economy services are provided by 32 agencies comprising 18 Federal and eight state agencies as well as six Statutory Bodies/GLCs involved in rural economic development. These agencies may have different objectives and perceptions of planning direction and priorities though they are targeting the same group.
The Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy, being led by Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, has already formulated a Master Plan for the development of Palm Oil Industry, Master Plan for Rubber Industry Development and the Establishment of Department of Veterinary Services towards achieving the desired objectives.