MALAYSIA: Risda to compile data on rubber smallholders

Risda deputy director-general Ahmad Sufi Alias said data compiled from the exercise would give a clearer picture on the country's rubber planting industry and its direction.

He said the last census was done in 2002, adding that there was a need for a new census as many things have taken place over the last 10 years.

"We hope to improve the livelihood of our (rubber) smallholders and increase monthly household income to RM2,500 by 2015,'' said Ahmad Sufi.

He was speaking to reporters after presenting certificates of appreciation to 80 employees who would retire this year, long-service and excellence awards.

Ahmad Sufi said there were now about 900,000ha of rubber trees in the country under the jurisdiction of Risda with 460,000 smallholders.

He said the 2002 figure showed that the average rubber estate owned by smallholders was 2.5ha, which had shrunk to between 1.8ha and 1.9ha in recent years.

"Last year, the annual yield per ha was 1,650kg and we are looking to increase the figure to 1,750kg by 2015, and 2,000 kg by 2020,'' added Ahmad Sufi.

He said the increase in the annual yield per ha could be achieved by encouraging smallholders to use better quality fertilisers and engage in good agronomic practices.

Ahmad Sufi said Risda had allocated RM160 million to about 320,000 smallholders to mitigate the decline in rubber prices.

He said Malaysia remained the third biggest producer of natural rubber in the world behind Thailand and Indonesia.

Johor Risda director Omar Paimin said the hinterland parts of Kluang, Muar, Ledang and Segamat had been identified as suitable places for rubber replanting schemes.

He said these areas were suitable for rubber trees due to the good soil conditions, adding that the trees could be tapped after four or five years. "Rubber trees planted on peat soil will take at least 10 years before they could be harvested and we do not want our smallholders to wait that long,'' said Omar.

Source: Daily "The Star", Kuala Lumpur; 13 June 2013

(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)