The use of technology and new mechanisms in agriculture introduced by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry (MOA) has reduced the use of labour especially foreign labour by 165,698 workers last year, said its deputy minister Datuk Rohani Karim.

She said to increase yield of the country’s main commodities like rice, meat, vegetables and fish, the ministry had given various subsidies besides giving advice; provided technology on planting and breeding; developed agricultural infrastructure; gave fertiliser subsidy; and provided marketing opportunities.

“These steps gave initiative to local farmers to increase agicultural yield and provided opportunities to farmers to conduct their operations to increase their income,” Rohani said in her speech here today to officiate the 41st annual conference of the Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) organised by the MOA, DID and the Malaysian National Committee on Irrigation & Drainage (MANCID).

She said the involvement of the younger generation in the new technologies and mindsets in the agricultural sector was also important for the country’s future.

According to her, now most of the farmers were elderly in their 60s and above and could not meet the needs and demands of the country food supply presently and in the future.

Rohani said through the National Food Security Policy an additional allocation of RM3 billion by the government could increase the national rice yield from 73 per cent sufficiency in 2008 to 86 per cent by 2010.

“This increase is important as the country still imports 657,900 tonnes of rice and this burdens the country’s finances,” she said.

She said an additional allocation through the National Food Security Policy would also be used to implement maintenance work and infrastructure development in and outside the country’s rice bowls covering an area of 426,260he.