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KUCHING (March 9): Subsistence farming must be transformed into a full-fledged commercial venture so that the agriculture industry would move further into the future, said Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

He said this call was meant to make it possible for local communities, especially those in the Bottom 40 Per Cent Low-Income (B40) group, to earn up to RM6,000 in household income per month by 2030.

‘That is our target – to improve (lives of) those in poverty.

“We have tried so many ways and means, so many types of livestock and agro-businesses.

“We want to move subsistence farming into agropreneur(ship) and full-fledged commercialisation. That is how we move agro-industry in the future,” he said in a press conference after launching a seminar on ‘Red Claw Crayfish Culture in Sarawak’ here yesterday.

Dr Rundi pointed out that in any agricultural activity, be it in crops, livestock or fisheries, all must be developed into an industry.

“An industry means from A to Z, the upstream and downstream of it. If it’s not big enough, at least it must be sufficient for local consumption.

“To move beyond that, we would need net exporters. We hope that by 2030, we would have net exporters.”

Dr Rundi also expressed hope for the farmers’ image, wellbeing and future would be more secure by 2030.

“That will guarantee our food security. Our job in the government is to facilitate, to give a very friendly environment and to provide what is needed such as infrastructures.

“It is not going to be an easy task, but if we had the means and ways, we should be able to do it.”

On the urban farming of red claw crayfish, Dr Rundi noted that it could be undertaken by anybody and anywhere.

“Upon reaching its volume, with the help of an anchor company, eventually this (urban farming of this crayfish) is going to be business for them, full commercialisation for them,” he added.

The seminar also coincided with the signing of a licensing agreement between the Department of Agriculture (DoA) and Thien Yen Aquaculture, with regard to a 10-year collaboration between the two parties in developing crayfish commercial farming for research and development (R&D) at the Tarat Agriculture Station.

“At the end of 10 years, they should be able to develop other (operators) with them,” said the minister.

Meanwhile in his opening remarks earlier, DoA Sarawak director Dr Alvin Chai said the red claw crayfish originated from Northern Australia.

Currently, there are high populations of this crustacean in Benut River in Johor and also Suai River in Sarawak, which have continued to grow since 2011.

“The DOA acted upon this report by executing 12 series of crayfish-landing surveillance programmes, whereby some of the samples were brought to the department’s inland fisheries stations for observation purposes.

“In 2016, the department initiated research on the breeding and rearing of crayfish and had successfully produced 1,000 tails,” he said.

Dr Chai said the DoA had initiated the commercialisation of the red claw crayfish species by introducing the concept of urban farming in Sarawak, whereby the crayfish would be reared in tanks placed on racks indoors.

He said the programme initially kicked off with two participants, assisted by the department – since then, the number of participants has since expanded to more than 150.

“In view of the rising popularity of red claw crayfish rearing, the DoA has formulated a set of standard operating procedures (SOP) for the red claw crayfish culture.

“This SOP incorporates urban farming for red claw crayfish that is more compact, more precise and more organised, resulting in higher production and higher income for our farmers,” he said.

In addition, Dr Chai said the DoA was aware of the invasive characteristics of the species and the potential harm that it might impose on the riverine ecosystem in Sarawak.

“As a preventive measure, the department has formulated the SOP without compromising the natural ecosystem in Sarawak. This is to ensure that the riverine areas are protected and free from harm,” he said.

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State Farmers’ Organisation Sarawak | PPNS
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