Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated that small farms will be managed by farm managers — just like the oil palm estates — to be viable and efficient.
He said that small farmers need not be totally dependent on oil palm or rubber for livelihoods if they were to expand into other types of agriculture farming as commodities were dependent on prices and small farmers lose when prices drop.
Sarawak is planning to go big in agriculture as noted by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, including into digital agriculture, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) as part of the modern process for agriculture farming, especially for small farmers.
With thousands of hectares of Native Customary Rights (NCR) land available, Sarawak’s foray into agriculture is a viable alternative to leaving these lands idle.
The effort by the Sarawak government to expand agriculture activities should seriously look into using farm managers like in oil palm estates as suggested by the prime minister.
To be viable, it is also imperative that these farms be large enough to have economies of scale and to justify having managers to run them efficiently.
With such big farms, productivity will increase which in turn will require even more input like machinery and service providers, all of which will lead to successful farm business ventures, both on land and in our rivers, coast and hydro dams.
The advantages of having managers are numerous, chief of which will be central planning and directions for the farms. These are crucial for success as producing for niche markets and supplying produce during low seasons for mass producers will enable small farmers to create markets for their produce.
With managers, these small farmers will be able to just concentrate on their farms while the managers will market the produce, resulting in greater efficiency and productivity for all concerned.
Just applying AI into farming is not sufficient to ensure success; farm produces need to be marketed efficiently and effectively to get the best returns and to do that, managers are the answer to the equation.
- Philip Wong, Director for Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa), is an entrepreneur and author. He has a Master’s in Development Economics (Canada) and is passionate about travelling, having visited over 100 countries to date.