KUALA LUMPUR (June 15): The unity government is discussing the consolidation of rubber smallholders into “mini-estates” to facilitate the adoption of agriculture technology (agritech) in their operations.
In the Dewan Rakyat on Thursday (June 15), Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof said such consolidation of smallholders into mini-estates may be done either via the establishment of a cooperative or company.
“Only then can we introduce methods to utilise technology, because smallholders may not be able to invest in new technology — whether robotic automation or mechanisation. This is what we are discussing, and we will hold a dialogue with smallholders' associations as well as the industry,” he said.
Fadillah, who also serves as the plantation and commodities minister, was responding to a supplementary question from Padang Serai Member of Parliament Datuk Azman Nasrudin in regard to the government’s steps to address the issues faced by rubber smallholders, specifically efforts to implement the use of robotic automation.
Fadillah explained that while some rubber smallholders tend to their own farms, some work with rubber tappers in an equal revenue-sharing partnership.
“This generally causes revenue to be shared with the tappers, despite operating costs being borne by the smallholders,” he added.
The Petra Jaya MP reiterated that in view of rising input costs, rubber smallholders have requested for the scrap rubber floor price to be raised to RM3/kg — subsequent to the previous hike to RM2.70/kg from RM2.50/kg under Budget 2023.
“Their concern is that the price of rubber is not consistent, and the current price is quite low compared to the cost they have to bear due to rising input costs,” he said.
Fadillah said that smallholders would earn no less than they are currently if they were to consolidate their holdings into mini-estates.
Moreover, Fadillah said the proposed consolidation is also a method the government is looking at to help and encourage rubber smallholders to switch to producing latex.
He said Malaysia spends RM3 billion a year importing latex, and would be able to reduce the outflow if latex is produced domestically.
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