I normally respond to comments about my articles posted on this blog in the comments' section. But this time I am making an exception. I am going to answer one comment which I think worthy front page in my blog.
Why? Since this particular comment was posted by Lim Kit Siang on his blog, I consider he subscribes to the points raised by this comentator. Thus it is my duty to write my second rebuttal of Lim Kit Siang's understanding about the proposed dam in Kota Belud, which was superficially gathered only from his half a day visit to my constituency.
A commentator called HABIB RAK wrote (for better understanding of the issue, read my earlier article and incessant tweets by Lim Kit Siang on the subject matter):
"Based on the above report, Yield (ton/hectare) for Australia is 8.7, Japan 6.4, China 6.3, Vietnam 4.7 and Indonesia 4.6. For Malaysia it is 3.3 only. The report also indicates that for our self sufficiency, our yield needs to be improved to 5.0. So, is there another way to meet the key objective? The answer is a resounding YES. All we need to do to our existing acreage is to improve the Yield factor from 3.3 to 5.0 tons per hectare. If Australia, Japan and China can do it, so can we. Even Vietnam and Indonesia is closer to 5.0. Further, it is reported that some areas in Malaysia can even get up to 10ton per hectare!... We are already producing about 65% of our need now. Thus the requirement is how to get the remaining 35% without being dependant on external parties (other countries)... The key objective can be met by simply improving the yield factor by 51.4% from 3.3 to 5.0. This alone will more than cover the 35% shortfall."
I can sum up what HABIB RAK is trying to say this way, that in order to have self sufficiency in rice, just simply increase production yields in existing paddy areas. No need dams. Simply? I wish it was that simple. Here is the reason.
It is true that yield (ton/hectare) for Australia is 8.7, Japan 6.4, China 6.3, Vietnam 4.7, Indonesia 4.6 and Malaysia 3.3, based on FAO report. This information is based on the average yield for the whole country. For Malaysia, the production yield between planting areas differ from one another.
Major granary areas like like Muda Agricultural Development Area (MADA) and Lembaga Kemajuan Pertanian Kemubu (KADA) have already achieving 5 ton/hectare to 6 ton/hectare which is comparable to Japan's and China's. Besides that, in Projek Barat Laut Selangor (PBLS), the yield is reaching 10 ton/hectare. However, our national paddy production yield average has been dragged down by low yield areas namely in Sabah and Sarawak!
So how much more can we squeeze out from MADA and KADA?
Currently under the Economic Transfromation Program (ETP), the government has further targeted to increase the paddy production yield in MADA and KADA from 6 ton/hectare to 8 ton/hectare which is about the same as Australia's. With the land factor remains the same if not decreasing, it is unlikely for the yield to go beyond 8 ton/hectare in those areas. The more input/investment we put in, after certain point, it will it will not give higher output ( I am sure HABIB RAK and Lim Kit Siang know the meaning of “law of diminishing returns”). Thus, future increases in production yield in MADA and KADA will not be able to replace the quantity imported by Malaysia. Whether we like it or not, other existing granary areas like Kota Belud in Sabah and Batang Lupar in Sarawak have to pick up the remaining slack.
Another point to consider is Malaysia's increasing population. Malaysia needs to open up new lands for paddy cultivation. MADA and KADA have reached almost saturated point in terms of rice production yield and land areas and they cannot forever supply the increasing needs of Malaysians in the future.
That is why, for Kota Belud, the government must increase its unproductive rice production yield from approximately 2 tons per hectare to at least 4 tons per hectare as a start, targeting 10 tons per hectare (or 4 tons per acre) in the future once all infrastructures are up. Only 3,929 hectares of the total paddy area in Kota Belud have good irrigation and drainage infrastructure. That is the reason for the urgent need to upgrade the infrasructure and find new sources of water ie the planned dam.
So far, government has spent RM150mil starting in 2009. That amount is for new drainage system, farm roads, bridges, upgrades of irrigation system etc. Some of the projects are still on-going, spanning many phases over several years. I am sure if he visited Kota Belud, HABIB RAK will be pleasantly surprised to see the hectic activities in Kota Belud's paddy fields. My only advice is dont spend only half a day and talk to a handful of people like someone we know. Your judgement may be clouded.
Oh yes, before I forget. The other main objective of the dam is to boost the income of the poor farmers in Kota Belud. With the current low production yield of majority of the farmers in Kota Belud, it is very difficult for them to sustain in the industry. So, how in the world by putting in more resources to increase yields in MADA and KADA would actually help to increase Kota Belud's farmers?
I really hope Lim Kit Siang will put this second rebuttal on his blog. Will he dare to tell the truth about the proposed dam in Kota Belud? Is it wishful thinking on my part? We will see.