SEBUYAU (Sarawak): A 50,000-hectare site has been identified in Sabah and Sarawak for rice planting, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said the matter had been agreed in principle by Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, but its implementation would require some time.

The allocation issued by the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development needs to be coordinated with the Sarawak Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture and the landowner’s consent is required especially when it involves customary land.

“The type of padi to be planted will be according to the suitability of the land in Sabah and Sarawak. I think the cost here is quite high, but that is a different matter, what is important is that there must be self-sufficiency for rice supply,“ he said.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Minister of Rural and Regional Development, said this after the Santuni Rakyat programme at Sekolah Kebangsaaan Haji Bujang, Sebangan near here, which was also attended by his deputy, Datuk Rubiah Wang and Sarawak Utilities and Communications Minister, Datuk Julaihi Narawi.

Ahmad Zahid said residents in the rural and interior areas must be given priority for any development project, especially in Sarawak itself, where the rural population is about 1.4 million.

“Since Sarawak has achieved independence for 60 years, it is the joint responsibility of the federal and state governments to develop the rural and interior areas,“ he said.

At the event, Ahmad Zahid also announced a RM10 million allocation for the construction of Giat Mara Centre in Sebangan this year. - Bernama

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