KUCHING (Sept 22): Locations that have been identified for large-scale paddy cultivation in Sarawak would be zoned as paddy agricultural areas, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said the plan encompasses areas like Sri Aman, Banting, Gedong Simunjan, Lundu’s Tanjung Puhun and several others which have been set for the development of rice-bowl areas.

According to him, the rice-bowl production also includes hill paddy cultivation areas in Baram.

“I agree with the zoning of the paddy area including Banting, Sri Aman, Gedong, Betong, Lundu, including hill paddy in the Baram area which we can identify (zone) as a paddy area,” he said during the opening ceremony of the Sarawak Agrofest 2023 (SAF2023) at Celebration Square in Jalan Stadium here today.

Elaborating further, Abang Johari said zoning the locations as agricultural areas would ensure the sustainability of rice production and processing in Sarawak.

He added that the initiative would also complement the development of rice production, thus help leveraging the livelihood of the paddy farmers

Earlier, Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom in his speech suggested the need to gazette locations that have been identified for large-scale paddy cultivation as paddy agricultural area.

According to him, this would safeguard the areas as rice-bowl from being converted into other agricultural products, especially commercial crops like palm oil.

He also stressed that gazetting such locations as paddy agricultural areas would facilitate the state’s self-sufficient level (SSL) by 2030.

Currently, Sarawak’s SSL for rice stands at 34 per cent.