Uggah presenting a cheque for the RM10,000.00 grant to Tr Ruselie Ujih for the Sk Paku Sentral PTA.

BETONG: The state government has made increasing the earning power of rural folk one of its priorities.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said this is being done through the government’s rural transformation programme.

“The state government under Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will assist land rich villagers to fully develop their land by introducing suitable agricultural activities besides bringing in the necessary infrastructure,” Uggah said during his visit to four longhouses in his Bukit Saban constituency yesterday.

Uggah who is Agriculture Modernisation, Native Land and Regional Development Minister, said his ministry had identified a number of options with which to help rural farmers.

“We have suggested for the people to grow crops like the Munsang King durian, maize, coconuts, pineapple and bananas.

“For durian, there is almost the insatiable demand for the fruit in China and we should exploit this,” he said.

He further said the Agriculture Department had been distributing free Munsang King saplings and organising Durian tree rehabilitation programme state-wide since last year.

“Both programmes will continue this year to eventually boost the production of fruits,” he said.

According to him, there is also huge domestic demand for maize particularly to be processed into animal feed.

“The state is importing almost RM300 million worth of maize annually. Obviously the amount reflects its great potential,” he said.

On pineapple and banana he said there were huge potentials for them as processed food.

“The people should diversify into these shorter-term cash crops when traditional cash crops like pepper and palm oil suffer because they are affected by cyclical low prices.

He said the recent proposal by the EU to ban palm oil use in biofuel was a cause for great concern.

Uggah also said livestock farming was another area of great promises.

“We now have aid programmes for rearing of pigs, cattle, goats and buffaloes.

“There is huge demand for pigs from Singapore as Sarawak is among the few producers in the region free from the mouth and foot disease.”

He said a farm in Samarahan is now exporting about 600 live pigs per day to Singapore.

“The demand is for about 1,200 pigs, which speaks volume of its potentials,” he said.

He said the Agriculture Department is providing free piglets and a course in Artificial Insemination to farmers.