21 November 2011

Blog | Ageing Padi Farmer

I was going through the Agriculture section in the ETP looking for information on mushroom farming when I stumbled upon this fact:

“Malaysia is faced with an ageing farming community, where the average age of paddy farmers is above 60 years and 40 percent of fruit farmers are above 55 years of age.”

I was stumped. I never thought about it. Rice, a staple for my three meals was mostly grown by senior citizens. I never really thought about the socio-economic issues surrounding padi farming let alone the average age of a padi farmer.

As I read on about the ageing padi farmer I also found out that Australia has the highest average rice yield in the world at 8.2 metric tonnes per hectare, Malaysia has one of the lowest at only 3.7 Metric tonnes per hectre per season. We even fall behind Myanmar and Bangladesh – 4.0 and 3.9 metric tonnes respectively. Was this because of an ageing padi farming community?

What does it mean to the local padi industry if we have an ageing padi farming community. Surely an ageing farming population would mean reduced levels of energy, productivity and a natural anathema to the latest in mechanisation and technology. Would it also mean farming as a business may not be a priority? On a national level will this usher in potential food security issues, seeing that rice is a Malaysian staple and for now, Malaysia produces close to 70% of its rice.

But are padi farmers really a dying breed? Is there a generation of younger padi farmers and if so what are their lives like and why did they decide to farm? How can this country attract younger farmers so that there is a brighter future to our padi industry in Malaysia?

I went out to look for answers. I spoke to scientists from MARDI, padi farmers young and old to find out more about the issues of scale, yield and productivity in the industry, what it means to have an ageing padi farming community and whether or not there are younger farmers coming forth in the industry. These conversations were captured in the first Hear and Now…in Malaysia episode.


Nova Ceceliana Nelson

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