Sunday, September 27, 2009

Felda Will Build National Food Warehouse: An Idea or A Dream?

Felda Will Build National Food Warehouse: An Idea or A Dream?

The Federal land Development Authority (Felda) will set up a National Food Warehouse. It was announced by Felda Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Yusof Noor. This is a second time I heard he made an "out of box" idea".

The first time about his idea was 15 years ago when Dr Mohd Yusof Noor was Menteri Besar Terengganu.He announced that Terengganu will build a LRT system after the same transport system was introduced in Klang Valley. People laugh about the idea, and it was stopped there!

According to the Felda Chairman, Felda will come up with a blueprint for the setting up of a national food warehouse in the next two months. The blueprint would include identifying the types of crops as well as methods of marketing the produce.

To implement the idea, a National Food Warehouse unit had been set up to help Felda realise the government's aspiration for the agency to earn revenue from other sources.

The unit will comprise a team of professionals and experts from Felda as well as those outside the agency. The blueprint will spell out plans for the next 15 years. The warehouse would require a RM750 million investment which it woild store vegetables, beef and fish products.

Let we discuss this brilliant idea....

The basic idea related to setting up a national food warehouse is producing and marketing of agricultural products. This is clearly stated in the out of date blueprint National Agriculture Policy.

Ministry of Agriculture has to change its name from Ministry of Agriculture to Ministry of Agriculture and Agrobased Industry because of challenges it faces when deal with "agriculture". Even, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia has changed its name to Universiti Putra Malaysia which was a wrong decision.

Ministry of Agriculture has introduced many initiatives to promote agriculture where it has a vision that by 2010 Malaysia will become a major food producer and net exporter of food in the world. This policy was introduced by Datuk Dr Nawawi when he was a minister of agriculture.

He was a good minister due to he was a business man before joining the goverment. He had tried hard to transform malaysian agriculture from "agriculture for the poor" to the "agriculture is a business". But his action plans were almost failed because he had to deal with the PTD officers who did not know anything about agriculture business except administering the office.

When Tan Sri Mahyuiddin took over the post of Minister of Agriculture, he has introduced many action plans to implement the Dr Nawawi's ideas. This include using a well known local consultant to promote Malaysia as a hub for aquaculure centre.

Government had launched an aquaculture pilot project in Tasik Kenyir Terengganu a few year ago. It was a brilliant idea due to it was a business driven in nature. But, today the project was failed. As Dr Nawawi faced, Tan Sri Mahyuddin faced many challenges with the PTD officers who come to the office to "makan gaji" not has a "business man attitude" to make agricuture is a business.

Other major initiative by the goverment is through FAMA by establishing TEMANs (a terminal for food warehouse in selected areas), but the projects were also failed.

And if we believe in past history of Malaysian agriculture, the National Food Warehouse sure will fail, except that there is "an abnormal action plan and out of box idea" comes from the Prime Minister Datuk Najib. I look he is a brilliant and hard working minister after Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

The main problem with the Malaysian agriculture is the political influences on agriculture and land matters. Both matters are state affairs and not a federal matter. The federal government can't do anything with the land matters eventhough the states are governed with the same political parties. For example, during the Barisan Nasional time, many paddy lands in Kedah, Perlis and Malacca were converted to housing projects even though the Federal Government had been trying to maintain paddy farms and increase the productivity of the paddy yield to meet at least 60% self-sufficientcy level for the nation.

With the different political backdrop in many states today, agriculture development in Malaysia is affected and could not be coordinated anymore. I don't thinks the states which are controlled by different political parties have the common understanding with the federal government when it comes to economic development agenda. Do you believe in me?

Believe me...Malaysian agriculture include food production policy is under uncertainty....


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Research Success Translates Into Agricultural Profitability

Research success translates into agricultural profitability

Over ten years, researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) have been relentlessly researching on and developing new products to improve the local agricultural industry.

With UPM’s collective academicians and researchers continuously undertaking new and novel research and development into their respective fields, UPM has been abundantly blessed with an ever-increasing influx of new agro centric creations, ranging from growth enhancers and vaccines to a virus detection kit.

A fine example of one such creation would be Vita-Grow. A plant growth enhancer, this impressive award winning creation was first introduced to the commercial market in 2000 and has been used by farmers across Asia to increase plant yield and promote growth.

Additionally, the use of Vita-Grow also helps farmers get quality produce by stimulating flowering and safeguarding against flower and bud shedding.

Similar to Vita-Grow, is another growth enhancer, TrichoGreen, which helps reduce palm tree infections. TrichoGreen was commercialised in 2006 and apart from enhancing the growth of palm seedlings, it is also recommended for vegetable, organic and herbal farming.

Disease prevention in livestock is another key research focus area of UPM. As poultry is Malaysia’s prime meat of choice, efforts were taken by UPM to eradicate the Newcastle disease, which is a highly contagious zoonotic bird disease that affects avian species and threatens commercial poultry breeding.

To eradicate this threat to poultry farmers, UPM developed a vaccine, called V4-UPM, to treat the problem. The creation, which was commercialized in 1995, is heat-resistant and suitable for use by breeders in tropical countries. It can also be used for mass vaccination and distributed in feed, thus making it easy to use in a big scale.

Due to V4-UPM’s huge success and its readily being embraced by local poultry farmers, the local pharmaceutical company which commercialised V4-UPM then did the same also for another UPM vaccine, which is used to vaccinate fowl pox. This tissue cultured vaccine is cheap and an effective method to control fowl pox disease. It has been found very effective in safeguarding poultry health.

For padi farmers, there is a rice seed germination enhancer called Zappa, which delays or suffocates untreated weedy rice seeds present in soil. This in turn reduces the problem of weeds in the long term.

Zappa, which was commercialised in 2002 and has won numerous local and international awards, also increases the growth of padi roots and shoots and can increase the padi harvest by up to 57%. It also helps reduce seed-borne diseases, increases seed purity, reduces rat attacks and conserves water usage.

As for sheep and goat breeders, UPM specifically developed an inter-nasal spray vaccine that aids in preventing their livestock from catching pneumonic mannhermiosis. The vaccine, which was introduced in 2006, has won awards in Geneva and Pittsburg.

Similarly, the anti-microbial compound, Bacteriocin UL4, is another worthy UPM creation that is suitable for vast application in the health, food and livestock industry. Its benefits even include its ability to act as a bio-preservative for the food and beverage industry, due to its ability to curb harmful bacterial growth that can cause digestive stress.

Bacteriocin UL4, which was commercialised in 2005, also helps promote the growth of beneficial bacteria by improving food digestion and adsorption, strengthening the body’s natural immunity system, lowering cholesterol and reducing the gastrointestinal tract’s pH levels.

For shrimp virus detection, UPM designed a kit for the detection of White Spot Syndrome virus. The product helps minimise cross-contamination, is economically priced and its simple DNA extraction protocol makes it fast and easy to use. Since its commercialisation in 2005, it has won numerous national and international awards.

Other noteworthy creations by UPM includes a product it commercialised in 2003. The many benefits of this product includes its ability to act as a natural substitute in chickens in order to promote their antibiotic growth.

As a probiotic for poultry this product can reduce fat and cholesterol in broilers and egg yolks. Its benefits include the ability to improve feed efficiency, egg production, weight and size, as well as a reduced mortality rate.

Furthermore, this noteworthy creation also helps reduce noxious bacterial enzymes and pathogenic bacteria in the intestinal tract.

If UPM’s current astounding and impressive creations are a precursor to what is to come, the future indeed heralds much greatness and accolades for this most illustrious of universities!

Souce: New Sunday Time, July 5, 2009
Related Link: Malaysian Education Blog

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Palm Oil

Future of Palm Oil Remains Bright
By Ahmad Ibrahim

Just a year ago, palm oil was on Cloud Nine. It was the toast of the country’s economy. The price of crude palm oil (CPO) breached the RM4,000 mark to touch RM4,312 a tone on March 3, last year. Price stayed above RM3,000 for about seven months, an all-time record.

Palm oil companies were dishing out big fat bonuses for their employees. Many were declaring handsome dividends for their investors. Oil palm smallholders were enjoying lucrative returns. Nobody then thought that palm oil prices would ever drop to unprofitable levels. Most in the industry were convinced that the palm oil price would never again dip below RM2,000 a tone.

That just demonstrated the overwhelming confidence many had in the palm oil industry.

Events of recent weeks have shattered that confidence. On Oct 24, last year, palm oil prices slumped to a low of RM1,390 per tonne, a massive drop from RM4,000.

Not so long ago,such a price level would still have been considered lucrative by past standards. That was when the cost of production averaged around RM600 to RM800 per ton. That has since escalated drastically.

A large part of the blame is attributed to the rise in fertilizer cost-a major component of production. When the crude oil price rose to more than US$140 (RM520) per barrel, the price of fertilizer followed suit. Though oil has now dropped below US$40, no similar drop has been seen in fertilizer prices.

Factor in labour costs, and it is easy to understand the big jump in palm oil costs. The average cost of production for last year may have hit RM1,000-RM1,200.

Change in palm oil prices is always big news in Malaysia. This is because for many years now palm oil has dominated Malaysia’s economy, especially in the rural areas. The prosperity of rural Malaysia, for example, is almost synonymous with palm oil.

Any bearishness in the palm oil market is seriously felt there. Every time palm oil prices drop too much, oil palm smallholders are hit the hardest. This is because most depend entirely on their palm oil income. Though many attribute the current price drop to the financial turmoil that has adversely affected global palm oil demand, many believe there are other forces influencing the price movement.

Apart from market demand, it is widely known that palm oil prices are also influenced by such factors as palm oil supply, changes in regulation on import and export, oilseed demand and supply, speculative activities, crude oil prices and the global economic outlook, just to name some.

At present, the global economic slowdown is the major force no doubt. With many not discounting a repeat of a 1930s-type recession, the focus now is on how to revive confidence and remove any lingering doubts among investors about the future of palm oil.

Though prices have recovered slightly since the low of March last year, the industry has outlined six strategic initiatives to help sustain prices for palm oil. These include creating biodiesel demand, better stock management, using the big discount to other oils to expand demand, aggressive marketing, resolving environmental issues, and branding.

The biodiesel policies already enacted should be implemented without further delay. This new demand will not only help reduce palm oil stocks but can also be leveraged as a protection against low prices.

During periods of low prices, a good replanting strategy can be effective in regulating and reducing supply. This in turn can help prop up prices.

It has been suggested that at an average replanting rate of 4% of total matured acreage per year, at least 600,000 tonnes can be taken out from supply.

The industry must continue must undertake aggressive market promotion to capture the market from the more expensive oils. It needs to tackle issues on the environment now being confronted by the industry. And, last but not least, it must invest in branding and brand support. Concepts such as certified and sustainable palm oil should be exploited.

Fortunes can change in unexpected ways. In the case of the palm oil industry, that long spell of good fortune on high prices and bullish demand had to end one day. Many in the industry did not expect it to happen so suddenly, denting confidence that had always been strong in the industry.

But a recent conference in Phuket, Thailand sent a strong message that despite the recent setbacks, the long term future of palm oil remains bright. And why not? Palm oil is the most economic edible oil to produce. This, together with its other nutritional and technical attributes, ensures palm oil can never be matched by the other competing oils.

With new developments in technologies and applications, palm oil’s global competitiveness can only get stronger.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board has been developing new products based on palm oil, while the Malaysia Palm Oil Council has been opening up new markets. With the industry always closely monitoring business changes, the industry has the armoury to face crisis in whatever form. With the right measures, there is no reason why price recovery cannot happen soon.

Note: The writer is fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Source: New Straits Times, Thursday, March 5, 2009
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