The government has heard the views of a former head of a plantation company which can serve as the framework to implement large-scale padi cultivation, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The prime minister said Felda chairman Mohd Bakke Salleh had tabled the proposal on the amalgamation of land which is applicable for large-scale padi farming. Mohd Bakke was the managing director of Sime Darby Plantation Bhd.
"He is familiar with the management of oil palm and rubber plantations and he has written a working paper on the ways to amalgamate land into bigger farms, which is not only limited to padi,” he told a press conference after opening the National Padi Convention in Alor Setar.
Mahathir said the proposal can be applied in the case of padi farmers in the country, many of whom are Malays and each own small pieces of padi land.
"The Malays have two or three acres of land and cultivate oil palm. This is not profitable. Rubber is also not profitable. They have to amalgamate (the land) to enlarge the acreage and manage (the crop) professionally, putting the land to the best use to make it profitable,” he said.
The prime minister said the amalgamation of land would be given emphasis because the provision of subsidy, including by way of free fertilizer, has failed to lift padi farmers out of poverty.
"We can give subsidies, we can give free fertilizer, but poverty still persists. The padi yield is still lower than in places which are managed well. As such, we are proposing to cultivate padi in another way,” he said.
Mahathir also wants institutions of higher learning to provide more management training opportunities to meet human resource requirements to manage the upcoming padi estates.
"We want to give priority to training in the management of large plantations and they (youths) can become managers, like in the case of oil palm and rubber estates,” he said.