On 30 July, the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) master-plan was launched with much fanfare. Among other goals, the blueprint aims to transform agriculture in the rice-bowl region of Malaysia.The masterplan was designed by Sime Darby although the project will be implemented by a regional coordinating authority, chaired by the Prime Minister.
On the face of it, it all sounds great. After all, if we can increase our food production and be more self-sufficient, then we would achieve food security, right?
But there are some underlying issues that have not been highlighted in the mainstream media.
Sime Darby is not a disinterested party. It is eyeing the seed market and planning to produce patented “mother seed” for 10 popular crops, which it wants to sell, along with fertilisers, to contract farmers. Not only that, the firm will eventually buy the farmers’ produce, process it and market it via Tesco (in which Sime Darby has a 30 per cent stake).
To get this scheme started, Sime Darby will introduce mechanised agro-business methods on a 700-acre model farm to a core group of pioneer farmers, who would be paid monthly salaries higher than the average farmer’s income. The contract farmers, once trained, would become contract farmers working on land allocated to them by the government or on plots merged through cooperatives.