Agriculture Sector in Malaysia – Food Issue


What do you think of the video you have just watched? Are you inspired to venture into the landscape of this sector?

To me, the video above seems to implicate a rather superficial representation of the sector. A marketing tool, perhaps suitable for road shows whereby the audiences are less picky on the details. Do you agree?

Portraying the sector through the angle of money and selling the idea of “agriculture is a business venture” is insufficient. With this in mind, let’s explore the area of our agriculture sector – its contribution to the nation, the challenges and the efforts of the Government to nurture the sector. This article is a continuation of our previous related topic.

Malaysia is a country blessed with much resources. However, in terms of management of resources, we still have so much potentials.

Did you know?

Agriculture remains as an important sector for Malaysia’s economy despite declining for the past years, contributing 10% (2012) to the national GDP and providing employment for 13% (2012) of the population.

More: Data on GDP and Economic Information

Our local produces are mainly palm oil, rubber, cocoa and rice. Most of these agriculture produces are exported, while we are importing rice from our neighbouring country – Thailand and Vietnam due to the insufficient produces.

More: Malaysia Agriculture

Why is the Contribution Declining?

Traditionally the face of the agriculture is seen as the poor man’s sector; therefore,

1. There has been a gradual shift of emphasis, away from the agriculture sector by the Government since 1970 – from being a producer of raw materials to an emerging multi-sector economy.

2. Mass migration of younger people to urban areas since the 1980s due to preferences on non-farming jobs, which in turns led to increasing labour shortage. To compensate the situation of the ageing farm labours, there rise a high demand for migrant labours, resulting to the increase in wages and the cost of production that has eventually eats into the profits of the sector.

3. The scarcity of land for expansion had restricted this sector from growing to its full potential. As the economy moves towards industrialization, this sector’s performance has been seen as relatively low in growth rate by comparison to other sectors. When other sectors expanded, the scarcity of land for agriculture’s expansion became apparent as all sectors are competing for the limited land areas and hence, putting pressure for the need in expanding into the woodland preservation areas.

4. Problems in promoting change and improvement among rice producers due to attitude issues, have resulted to higher cost of production, poor productivity and quality of agricultural products. While they continue to remain locked-in to a relatively unproductive agricultural system, and the gap between their and urban incomes has grown wider.

5. The idea of self-sufficiency has not been broadly favoured among the Malaysian policymakers and Malaysians. Therefore lesser focus on research and development (R&D) in food crops, emphasis predominantly on export-oriented crops and lacking of investors as this sector continues to be seen as a risk venture due to perishable factors.

More: Agriculture in Malaysia’s economic and social transformation, Development of Agriculture Sector in Malaysia, and Malaysia Agriculture Sector.

Today is a New Beginning

As we are facing new challenges in this era, the landscape of this sector seems to be heading towards the direction of self-sufficiency. With the Government willingness to resume this portfolio, the encouragement is gradually making its visibility among the people:

1. “Plans were put in place to develop better infrastructure, and management techniques and technology and increase the productivity in rice farming, seaweed farming and temperate vegetables farming by more than 40%”. News Straits Time (2012)

2. “The Government is setting up pilot “21st Century Villages” which will have modern amenities such as broadband so that the young have at least some of the things they are used to having in the urban areas. Overall, it is an experiment using four different models”. Idris Jala (2013).

3. “The government has allocated RM6 billion to implement agricultural programmes with highly-added and commercial values”. The (2013).

4. “Recognising the vital importance of food security and nutrition in meeting the nation’s needs; the Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Datuk Hussein Haniff said Malaysia had made it a point to ensure that sustainable agriculture and food security and nutrition were high on its national agenda”. Borneo Post Online (2013).


With reference to the above video’s message – “agriculture is a business venture” and the citations abstracted from the media as below:

“We need to cultivate an environment for the farming industry where farmers see themselves as businessmen. Our role is to facilitate the process and invest in capacity building in order to grow the agri-industry to become a key contributor to the nation’s economic wealth”. The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, Datuk Seri Noh Omar (2012)

“The point that I would like to make is that the agricultural sector can be attractive and income generating. In fact we have to make it as attractive as possible if we want to revitalise agriculture and make it a vibrant sector of the economy. One major finding in agriculture is that over 66% of people in agriculture are over 50 – the young simply do not want to be involved. Our great challenge is to see how to get the young into agriculture”. Idris Jala (2013)

It is clear that the Government is trying to change the traditional mindset – agriculture is a “poor man’s sector” among the people. They are facing great challenges in wooing the young into the agriculture sector, and ever wondered why is it so? Maybe due to lack of exposure in practical knowledge and experiences of the agricultural related learning materials, that explains why the young are not responding well?

Perhaps, getting schools to incorporate practical agricultural related syllabuses into the current education system can be a good starting point to create an awareness of this sector. I will not go further as we have covered this area before.

As my parting words; remember, it may not be easy for a start as it will takes years of hard work to till the ground through rain or shine before reaping its yields. appreciates the passion, generosity and contribution of others in the world of culinary. Therefore we wish to emphasize that many of the contents seen in our articles are sourced from the world wide web for the purpose of creating awareness only. Kudos to those who put so much effort to produce such wonderful contents. Thank you.


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