Agriculture and farming in Malaysia main information
Malaysia's economy is strongly influenced by agriculture which contributes up to 12% of the national GDP. The agriculture sector provides employment for almost 16% of the total Malay population. Historically, Agriculture was strongly influenced by the British who introduced large commercial crops and huge plantations, especially rubber, palm oil, and cocoa plantations. Ever since exports of Malay crops are dominated by these three main crops. Additionally, Malaysian farming includes the production of fresh vegetables and fruit, especially for the domestic market. The largest production is based on bananas, coconut, durian, pineapples, and rice.
Climate and regionThanks to the climate and region, Malaysia is in favor of producing various tropical and exotic fruits and vegetables. What stays in favor of agriculture is the fact that Malaysia rarely is hit by droughts or hurricanes. The Malaysian climate is characterized by high humidity, high temperatures, and extensive rainfall. All the seasons are regulated by monsoons. The mainland of the country is mostly covered by swamps and forests (almost 75% of the land).
Rice productionUndeniably a big role in the Malay agriculture market plays the production of rice, which is treated as a national plant of the country and is the most basic part of everyday Malay diet. The production of rice just in 1998 was established at 1.94 million tons. Even though the rice is being widely and massively produced, the production is not sufficient for the needs, that is why Malaysia imports vast amounts of rice from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand. Rice cultivation accounts for almost 1/6 of the total cultivated land. It is the second-largest production area, just after the land devoted to rubber production. Rice is mostly cultivated by local small-holders, while the mailing and marketing of rice are done by the Chinese. Rice fields are found all over the country but the two largest regions specialized in rice production are the northwest and the northeast. The northwest region (Pelis, Kedah, Province Wellesley, and Perak) owns almost 55% of the total rice cultivation area. Another important location specialized in rice production is at Tanjong Karang in Selangor. Rice is mostly cultivated under the wet system – up to 95% of the total cultivation. The total area devoted to rice cultivation measures 989000 acres, with up to 976000 metric tons of rice being produced yearly. Rice is mostly harvested between January and mid-April, but off-season crop is harvested in the fall.
Rubber productionThe prominent production of palm oil has established Malaysia as one of the largest producers in the world. Just in 1999, the production of palm oil exceeded 10.55 million tons, and almost 88% of that amount was further exported. Malaysia is also one of the most prominent producers of rubber in the world. Over 767.000 metric tons of rubber are produced there annually. However, large rubber-producing plantations reduced their production and turned towards more profitable palm oil production. The third most prominent crop in Malaysia is cocoa, with a number of 84.000 metric tons being produced yearly. Thanks to that Malaysia is the fourth-largest supplier and cocoa producer in the world.
Coconut productionAnother prominent crop production that is quite important for Malay agriculture is the production of coconuts. After rice and rubber cultivation, coconut production accounts for 20% of the total agricultural area. The main destination of coconut production is to produce copra for the local extraction of oil. Fresh coconuts are also important for home consumption. Excessive coconut production significantly reduced the amount of imported copra resulting in decreasing the dependence on copra imports for the local market. Additional area for coconut production is achieved by replacing old trees with better varieties and improving drainage. The largest coconuts plantations are located in Perak, Province Wellesley, Johore, but coconuts are also widely cultivated along the east coast. However, because of the major problem with the coconut trees, which are past their prime, copra production has decreased by 40% compared to the amount produced in previous years. Around 136 000 ~ 176 000 tons of copra are produced annually in Malaysia.
Pineapple productionPineapple production is quite prominent in Malaysia, as the fruit is being grown all over the country. However, it is canned and utilized in three States only. The largest producer of pineapple is the Johore area. The production is also quite significant for two different regions – Perak and Selangor. To improve pineapple production, various important projects such as jungle clearing, drainage work as well as planting were done. Up to 45000 acres of land is planted with pineapple nowadays with the 20000 metric tons of the fruit being produced annually. Pineapple is mostly consumed locally fresh or canned and exported. Exports of canned pineapple exceeded 36127 metric tons.
Spices and tabacco productionOnly 2% of Malay agricultural land is used for the production of other crops such as tea, coffee, tobacco, or spices. In the case of spices, the most cultivated crops are areca nut, pepper, and ginger. Commercially grown teas consist both of lowland and highland. Recent years have also shown a growing tendency in the production of coffee, where Liberica coffee is the largest production. The common tobacco grown is characterized by a dark, heavy leaf variety but also the flue-cured Virginia-type tobacco is being cultivated due to the growing demand from local cigarette producers. The demand increases the overall demand of its market value.
Livestock productionMalaysia agriculture is not predominantly by the livestock industry, there is a small section with some economic significance. According to various data, less than 0.5% of people employed in agriculture were engaged in the raising of livestock. The livestock sector mostly consists of the production of meat, eggs, milk, and hides. The animals raising consist of domestic animals such as swine, sheep, goats, cattle buffalo, and poultry. The development of livestock is inhibited by a few key factors. Most importantly, the climate is not livestock operations friendly. It is hard to keep all kinds of livestock in good condition throughout the year.
Poultry productionPoultry in Malaysia is also a very important sector, as it helps to supply the need for protein in the everyday Malay diet. This sector of agriculture is widely developed and quite strong. Due to the emphasis on the country being a „halal hub”, the swine sector is poorly developed and can be even said to be struggling. According to the country policy, the swine sector would be preferred to disappear completely. The beef production sector is hardly existing and has no real influence on the country's agriculture.
Farming methods and strategiesDue to the extremely potential palm oil production, Agricultural research is quite prominent in Malaysia. Other sectors are supported with input subsidies, consumer subsidies, and support prices. Even though the government tries to focus on other sectors, almost all newest and meaningful agriculture investments are designated for palm oil production. Farming in Malaysia is mostly done in the traditional way, without the use of heavy machinery. Until World War II almost no tractors were used in mainland Malaysia due to a lack of proper topographical conditions. After World War II more extensive use of mechanized equipment was given serious attention, especially on estates and smallholding. However, native labor is still not familiar with modern farming standards. Heavy machinery is used to heoing, digging, weeding, and draining rice fields but crops are still transported manually by laborers.
SummaryMalay agriculture is a sector with huge economic potential. To fully develop its potential, there must be several major social changes conducted. The agriculture sector has plenty of possibilities for improvement. Four major fields which need to be further developed are an investment, technology upgrading, institutional reform as well as changes in state-society relations. Upgrades in those four elements will improve the most backward sector of Malay agriculture, the independent smallholdings. The smallholdings are mostly involved in oil palm cultivation as well as rubber and rice cultivation, the three most prominent crops. The goal of these changes is to ensure a sufficient, dynamic, and small farm agriculture based on family farms, as an alternative from urban enterprises.