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The provision of basic infrastructure, especially water supply and roads, by the government can help increase productivity and optimise the use of idle or underutilized agricultural land.

A lecturer from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Faculty of Agriculture Prof Dr Norsida Man said that one of the factors causing agricultural land to remain unused by its owners is the lack of infrastructure such as water supply.

“Some agricultural land owners do have the intention to cultivate their land but factors like shortage of water sources lead to the abandonment of such land.

“The government should prioritise improving these essential infrastructures first because only when they are in place, landowners can do what needs to be done (on that land). When issues like water supply arise, it becomes impossible for them to utilise the land.

“So, the federal or state government, through their agencies, need to work together to develop agricultural areas to make them more productive,” she told Bernama here.

According to Norsida, the implementation of the Permanent Food Production Park (TKPM) model needs to be further expanded to achieve the goal of optimising the use of agricultural land in the country.

“TKPM is a good example. However, the government needs to encourage entrepreneurs or farmers to participate in it. TKPM already has the infrastructure in place. So, the government should expand it,” she said.

Sharing her view was the Head of the Agrotechnology Department at the Faculty of Engineering and Mechanical Technology, Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) Dr Rashidah Ruslan who said that the lack of financial support and capital for infrastructure provision in agricultural areas is one of the reasons why agricultural land remains unused.

“Infrastructure includes access to water, roads, and electricity, planting areas, collection centres, and farmworkers’ quarters. If these agricultural lands are far from the main infrastructure sources, the costs of starting a farm will certainly be high.

“Another factor contributing to this situation is that landowners themselves may not be interested in cultivating agricultural land due to the initial costs involved, including worker wages or salaries,” she said.

Rashidah believes that to optimise the use of agricultural land and reduce dependence on food imports from other countries, good data management practices should not be limited to rice production alone but should also be implemented for other types of crops.

“For example, if there is an issue like a shortage or surplus of vegetables in the market, planting data, farm output, and coordination in each state should be readily available so that the causes can be identified more quickly.

“Crop yield projections for various crops should also be made so that we can reduce the import of other vegetables,” she said.

She also recommends that attention be given to the distribution of the types of crops to avoid overproduction at any given time.

“When there is an oversupply issue, it affects farmers the most because their efforts do not yield proportionate returns due to lower selling prices,” she added.

Recently, the media reported that the National Food Resource Area Land Use Planning Study by the Department of Town and Country Planning (PLAN Malaysia) indicated that only 817,000 hectares, or 16 per cent of the 5.36 million hectares of agricultural land, are used for food production.

The self-sufficiency rate projection in the National Agrofood Policy (DAN) 2.0 suggests that Malaysia will require approximately 1.3 million hectares of land for food production activities by 2030 to meet the demand for food resources.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency