KUCHING: A paper on a social safety net mechanism for pepper farmers has been prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities prior to tabling and approval in Parliament.
Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) chairman Tan Sri William Mawan said once approved, the social safety net mechanism will ensure pepper farmers can still carry on with their agricultural venture despite low market prices.
“This is to protect the pepper industry. In general, we have prepared that paper. Exporters may need to pay certain cess to the fund set up by the government. When prices are good, the farmers too will contribute a minimal amount to the fund,” he said in an interview at his office.
This was in response to the call made by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas for MPB to set aside a fund to buy up pepper when there is oversupply of the commodity in the market or provide subsidy as a ‘social safety net’ for pepper farmers.
Uggah was quoted as saying that during his tenure as federal minister of plantation industries and commodities, he had formulated such a mechanism for those in the rubber industry – now, he hopes the same thing could be done for those in the pepper industry.
Uggah had also said that when the price is low, farmers tend to abandon their pepper vines, which he did not want to happen again.
On a related matter, Mawan said MPB is assisting farmers with an annual subsidy while the state’s Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development is also assisting with RM10 million worth of subsidies.
He said MPB is committed to future challenges and will be setting up a Research and Development Complex at 12th Mile, Semengok.
“The tender for construction is to be awarded in August. It will materialise very soon. To ensure marketability of Sarawak Pepper, adopting good agricultural practices at the upstream level and good manufacturing practices at the downstream level are no longer an option but a way forward for the industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, MPB director general Dr Harry Entebang said MPB expects price fluctuations to continue to occur globally due to the high volume of production by Vietnam and other major producing countries.
Because of this, he said MPB will continue to encourage pepper farmers to produce quality pepper for export as it can fetch better prices in the global market.
To a question, he said Malaysia is the world’s fifth biggest pepper producer and MPB expects 30,000 metric tonnes of pepper from 17,000 hectares. He also mentioned that 98 per cent of Malaysia’s pepper comes from Sarawak.
He also said MPB is preparing a paper on import parameters which would limit pepper imported to the country and encourage traders to buy local pepper.
“At the moment, they can import freely, and they mix imported pepper with local pepper which reduces the quality,” he said.