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NCER To Tranform The Northern Region Into Modern Food Zone

KUALA LUMPUR - The Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) is set to transform the region into a modern food zone for Malaysia, thus improving the contribution of the agriculture sector to economic growth.

The NCER blueprint has classified 40 percent or 932,581 ha in the northern region (4.9 percent in Penang, 6.6 percent in Perlis, 27.8 percent in Perak and 60.7 percent in Kedah), for agriculture use. These include 100,000 ha of idle land.

Of this, 595,615 ha will be for the cultivation of padi, sugar cane, oil palm and rubber. The 167,598 ha for padi will account for 64 percent of the total padi cultivation areas in Peninsular Malaysia.

The NCER blueprint's three main strateges for agriculture include increasing its contribution to the Northern Corridor's GDP from 12 percent currently to 15 percent in 2012.

Another is to increase exports of agricultural products with both upstream and downstream activities being promoted to enable the NCER to export around RM48 billion worth of agricultural produce by 2012.

The third is to raise the rural income level through programmes that diversify sources of income from existing land, improve land productivity and improve agriculture value-added.

There are three strategic thrusts - promoting commercial farming in partnership with local communities, crop specialisation and introduction world-class agricultural technology.

According to the blueprint, a phased approach will be adopted to achieve the objective of increased agricultural growth and improved rural incomes, starting with courting anchor investors (2007-2012), accelerating regional growth (2013-2020) and establishing global leadership (2021-2025).

Seven immediate implementation programmes have been indentified - common management of land to achieve economies of sale; re-designation of unused industrial land for agriculture; strengthening infrastructure; provision of funding and incentives; establishment of a Seeds R&D Centre, global branding; and strengthening human capital.