According to Tun Mahathir, “The new policy will also realign the strategy to expedite the modernisation process [of the food sector] apart from managing food supply and demand.
“This is [all] in line with the government’s aim of boosting the competitiveness of the agro food sector.”
The Agro-Food Policy 2.0 is set for the years 2021 through 2030.
Tun Mahathir added that the policy would be key in ensuring Malaysia’s food sector remains competitive and relevant given the Industrial Revolution 4.0.
“Like it or not, digitalisation or the use of digital equipment as well as new technology will boost productivity for all sectors,” he said, adding that Industrial Revolution 4.0 would disrupt traditional processes, so it is important to keep up with technology so as not to be left behind.
Reducing dependence on foreign food producers, and obtaining food supply from local sources was also a heavily-discussed theme.
“Although food security has been defined as having enough food supply for everyone at all time, without stressing on whether it is domestically-produced or imported, Malaysia […] must ensure that a large portion of the supply is dependent on local producers,” added the Prime Minister.
Focus on fruits as new source of income for the country
Technology and food security aside, Tun Mahathir also revealed plans to foster new means of national income, which mostly surrounded locally-produced fruits with widespread demand like durian and coconut.
According to Bernama, these alternative income sources would be developed using ‘various research and development efforts’, as well as supply chain support like ‘business models, logistical support in terms of collection and distribution, refrigeration facilities and optimisation of transportation machinery’.
“Indirectly, all food sector supply chains will be capitalised to the maximum. [We are talking about] a new economic frontier, access to a wider market and a distribution chain that is more efficient,” added Tun Mahathir.
Current National Agro-Food Policy
The current National Agro-food Policy (NAP) has been enforced since 2011, and will last through 2020.
According to research by the Food and Fertiliser Technology Centre (FFTC), the NAP has been successful in terms of increasing the production of food commodities due to the introduction of new technologies and systems.
However, it has shown very limited success in terms of assuring self-sufficiency, especially for beef, mutton and rice.
“As a result, Malaysia imports these commodities from neighbouring countries, [worth] RM45.3bn worth of food stuff in 2015,” said the report.
“The main sources of meat are New Zealand, Australia and India, and the main sources of rice are Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and India.”
The report also said that ‘there are some issues and challenges that this sector is facing’, citing external factors such as ‘moderate global growth, declining commodity prices and volatility in financial markets’.
“It is hoped that realignment of strategies will help the government to achieve the targets set by [the original NAP],” it concluded.