KUCHING: More than 1,500 delegates from local and international agriculture and agribusiness sector, academic and research institutions and the public sector particularly from the Asean region will converge here for the International Conference on Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Sarawak (Icaas) 2017.
Themed ‘Transforming Agriculture through Commercialisation’, the conference will be held from Aug 21 to 22 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK).
“This is the first time the Sarawak government is organising such an important agriculture conference for the state. We would like to acknowledge the strong support of the Sarawak state government in making Icaas 2017 possible,” Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said.
He told a press conference this before the launch of Icaas 2017 website www.icaas2017.com.my at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Petra Jaya here yesterday.
The conference aims to highlight current issues, challenges, trends, opportunities and the way forward in agriculture and agro-based industry for Sarawak.
There will be four tracks covering topics entitled modernisation and commercialisation of agriculture (its scenario and trends); journey towards transformed agriculture; stakeholders’ integration along the supply chain and digital agriculture.
“Agriculture is one of the key sectors in the transformation of Sarawak’s economy, contributing about 14 per cent to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016,” Uggah said.
Uggah, who is also Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Minister, said Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg will be the patron and has consented to deliver his keynote address at the conference.
Deputy State Secretary (Socio Economic Transformation) Datu Ismawi Ismuni is the organising chairman.
To a query, Uggah said the conference will also discuss ways to encourage the younger generation, including university graduates, to be involved in commercial farming or agriculture business.
“If we look at the technology we are going to do we may be able to attract the younger generation. I was told by Datuk Idris Jala (Pemandu CEO) that a certain lady in Kenya came up with a software that is able to bring all farmers who use hand phones to come together to sell their products,’ he said.
“Technology makes agriculture trendy and smart and this results in a totally new ball game altogether that will attract the youth,” he added.
“And then there are stories of successful farmers making RM30,000 to RM40,000 per month. What would attract our youth if not good income?”
Issues on youth involvement in agriculture will be discussed when the paper on digital agriculture is presented at the coming Icaas 2017.
“We are now embarking on transformation programme and our main focus is on digital economy and agriculture. We have two million hectares of land and therefore our state (Sarawak) is set to be the last frontier in agriculture development. In other states a lot of agricultural land have been developed into property projects and so on.”
Stating that Sarawak aims to become a food basket not only for Malaysia but also other countries, Uggah said the market for agriculture and agro-based products is around three billion people and they are from Asean countries as well as China, India, Korea and Japan.
He believed that modern technology and good transportation system would enable Sarawak to position and propel itself towards this mission.
“But do we have the model, the technology and right approaches to make it happen?
“This is what we are searching for and looking forward to in the coming international conference. We also have to learn from successful countries and states in Peninsular Malaysia, hoping to adopt their achievements,” he said.
With the transformation in place, Uggah said the state hopes to eradicate hardcore poverty, uplift the people’s standard of living and reduce income disparity between the rural and urban population.
Those interested to participate in the conference and exhibition are advised to visit the Icaas 2017 website at www.icaas2017.com.my
Also present at the press conference were Ismawi, Assistant Minister of Native Land Development Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn and State Agriculture director Datu Lai Kui Fong.