Yesterday, I went to inspect the Monspace-owned farm in Rimbunan Kaseh, Kedah. The produce farmed here include chilli and rice, and a large fish pond. These are all part of the Monspace agricultural technology portfolio.
Not only was this part of our business unaffected by the Movement Control Order (MCO), it even contributed to alleviating urgent needs within the country.
The coronavirus that started in 2019 and spread into 2020 has affected the whole world. At its worst, the pandemic greatly affected both aquaculture and agriculture industries, mainly due to issues such as strict sanitary regulations, movement restrictions, logistic issues and closed borders.
As the virus continues to spread, certain food-exporting country started to worry about local food production and supply, therefore took measures to restrict export.
In mid-March, Argentina’s two major agricultural export ports, Rosario and Timbues, were forced to close temporarily. Vietnam, the world’s second largest exporter of rice, also suspended its rice export authorization on March 25 to ensure domestic supply and stable prices.
The coronavirus has also directly impacted certain agricultural industries. For example, the palm oil industry in Malaysia has reduced its harvest due to limitations in logistics and human resources. Small and medium banana plantations in the Philippines were also directly affected. The orchid industry in Thailand collapsed during the first half of the year, and is currently experiencing sales stagnation.
The global aquaculture industry has also suffered to a certain degree. In Malaysia, due to transportation issues, logistical limitations and border closures, exports were obstructed , while sales to restaurants and hotels also drastically reduced, causing losses to business owners.
But the crisis also presented opportunities. During this critical moment, many aquaculture operators chose to sell their products through e-commerce platforms, saving their businesses in time.
Product such as rice, however, are not affected. Instead, they became one of the most important food sources during the pandemic.
As Malaysia enters the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase, its agriculture and aquaculture industries have gradually stabilized, especially agriculture. The pandemic also urged the government to rethink food security. Most of our country’s food is imported from abroad, while local land is used to grow commodities such as palm oil. The government realised that our country must encourage local farming to ensure that domestic food supply remains sufficient in any crisis. As a result, we have started to promote agricultural transformation in a systematic way. Youth participation in agriculture is now a focus in local economic development, while also providing Malaysians with new job and business opportunities.
The reason Monspace began to invest in agriculture and aquaculture a few years ago, and vigorously promoted them, is not only because we believe that Malaysia is rich in natural resources, blessed with fertile soil and a climate suitable for farming; it is also to help Malaysia reduce its dependence on imported agricultural products, satisfying domestic demand. In the event of any major crisis, we would not have to worry about local food supply.
In the future, I will continue to promote the growth of local agriculture, because this industry is the foundation of our national economy, on top of being stable and secure. The vital role of local farming and domestic food supply is further highlighted during this pandemic. In the long run, we should further enhance agricultural production capacity, giving ourselves a safety net while laying a more solid foundation for the sustained and healthy development of our economy and society.