Saturday August 4, 2012
Bidor farmers rejoice as their farms are no longer illegal
Story and photos by FONG KEE SOON
ABOUT 90 farmers from Kampung Baru Kuala Bikam and Kampung Baru Coldstream in Bidor have been given a new lease of life, as their farms are no longer illegal.
The farmers have signed an agreement with the State Agriculture Development Corporation to lease a total of 809ha land they have been occupying for years at an annual rate of RM200 per 0.4ha to grow vegetable and fruits, and to breed fish.
Those who cultivate oil palm are to pay the corporation RM400 per 0.4ha each year.
The lease is valid for up to 30 years with the rental amount to be reviewed once every three years.
Kuala Bikam Farmers Association chairman Lee Mooi Choon said the farmers, whose main produce included seedless guava, mango, sweet potato, rose apple and turnip, could at last sleep better with a new sense of security.
“We no longer have to worry about the land here being earmarked for other industries.
“Many families here depend mostly on farming for a living, some for more than 30 years.
“Hopefully, the Government will continue to assist the farmers in other aspects such as fertiliser subsidies,” Lee told The Star during an agreement signing session at the village on Tuesday.
Vegetable and oil palm farmer Yang Woo Chong found the rent a bit steep, given the present cautious economic outlook.
The third generation farmer claimed that in a southern state, agricultural land was being rented out from as low as RM70 per 0.4ha annually.
“Farming is also challenging here as the soil is mostly sandy.
“It dries up quickly and has poor retention capacity of nutrients,” he said, adding that there was always the threat of poor harvests due to the weather.
Fellow farmer Tan Poo Sean said he could not afford to pay the rent in one lump sum but was glad to be offered an instalment scheme instead.
“The convenient payment option is also good as no interest is incurred,” he said.
Corporation property manager Sabuddin Uthmawi said the move to lease the land to the farmers would help boost the state’s coffer.
“I think it is only fair for the farmers to pay rental as they have been using the land for generations without having to pay.
“The rental may be higher than in other states but we have to take into account the revenue we had missed out on over decades,” he said.
On another note Sabuddin said he was encouraged by the support of the farmers as the corporation had managed to collect more than RM400,000 in rent during the day of the signing ceremony.
“That is about 71% of the total rent we are supposed to collect from the farmers,” he said.