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New policies to lift farmers, fishermen out of B40 - minister

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A new set of policies to improve the welfare of farmers, smallholders and fishermen will be introduced sometime next month, according to Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Salahuddin Ayub.

In an interview with The Malay Mail, Salahuddin said these will replace existing policies which have trapped many of the country's farmers, fishermen and smallholders in the bottom 40 percent (B40) income group.

“We have failed to achieve our goal as the smallholders, ranchers, farmers, and fishermen are still stuck in the B40.

"So what went wrong? After seven months in office, I have been thinking about that," he was quoted as saying.

Given that the ministry cannot fully rectify all past mistakes, Salahuddin said the new policies will be designed to improve their future.

'Food sustainability a challenge'

More than just protecting those at the top of the food supply chain, Salahuddin said his ministry must also ensure that the nation’s granaries are fully stocked.

The minister explained that the process involved the far more complex problem of ensuring that food remains affordable, accessible, available and safe.

"This is among my greatest challenges and it is an uphill task for me. The ministry looks at the index on a day-to-day basis to ensure that we have enough food.

"If we don’t, then we import food," said the Amanah deputy president, adding that there is a need for a long-term master plan to address four factors to boost domestic food production.

These factors involve all stakeholders, from policymakers to food producers in the field.

"First, you have to look at government policies or even government intervention. Second, you need to have the private sector, both local and foreign, to come in and help boost production," he said.

"Third, you need to strengthen SMEs so that they too can help. Lastly, you need to improve the income of local farmers and smallholders," he explained.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that aid alone would not help alleviate poverty among fishermen and farmers.

Instead, Mahathir suggested that farmers consider alternative methods, such as crop diversification and land consolidation, to maximise production and ultimately boost their income. 

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