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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Farmers urge probe into padi seed supply contracts


Three padi farmers from Sekinchan, Selangor's rice bowl, have lodged a police report seeking investigations into “elements of abuse of power” in the awarding of government contracts for seed supplies.

NONEIn a joint report lodged today at the Sekinchan police station, Loo Kim Yong, Misran Serman and S Ragavan said they suspect abuse on the part of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Noh Omar(right)

The trio said that the contracts awarded to supply 80,000 tonnes of seeds, or half the total for 2013-2014, to two companies - Seri Merbok Sdn Bhd and Haji Md Nor bin Haji Abd Rahman (M) Sdn Bhd (HMN) - could affect their yield. 

“We are concerned that ... if these crony companies fail to deliver, farmers will face a crisis in either obtaining seeds or that the seeds will be of poor quality or disease-ridden ... thus endangering our yield,” they said. 

NONEContacted later, Loo(left), 71, said that farmers have had problems with the quality of subsidised seeds in the past two to three years.

Previously, he said, there had been more players supplying subsidised seeds. 

“But since Noh took over, there are fewer suppliers. We can only sell rice to the subsidised seed suppliers, and now there are fewer choices,” he said.

“We want the minister to give us an explanation. The last time we saw him near here was six months ago.” 

Loo, who is Sekinchan DAP chairperson, also backed state assemblyperson Ng Suee Lin's claim in Media Selangorku on Oct 7 that HMN is owned by a local Umno leader's father.

NONEMalaysiakini hadreported that Negri Sembilan executive councillor Mohamad Rais Zainuddin is a director of Seri Merbok. 

PAS’ Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar hadrevealed in Parliament a Finance Ministry letter stating that the contracts had been awarded to suppliers who had failed to meet the criteria. 

The police report was lodged after a demonstration by about 100 farmers in front of a seed processing plant in Tali Air 2, Sungai Burong. 

Sungai Burong is located in Noh's Tanjong Karang parliamentary constituency, about six kilometres from Sekinchan. 

'Subsidies should help farmers'

According to Ng, the Tali Air 2 plant, previously operated by the Agriculture Department, has been privatised and leased to HMN. 

NONE“The plant was built in 2004 at a cost of RM19 million. The Agriculture Department bought the rice for a guaranteed RM1,400 a tonne and taught the farmers (how to improve their) skills,” he said when contacted.

“But when Noh took over as minister, the plant was privatised and now we understand that HMN is now renting it at RM5,000 a month.” 

Ng (left) claimed to have received many complaints from farmers over the seed quality over the past three years.

He said the seed suppliers receive RM1,035 per tonne in government subsidy. 

“How much is that if you have a quota of 20,000 tonnes? This is the people's money, not Noh's money, and it should be used carefully to assist farmers and not crony companies,” he said. 

He also demanded that Noh, who recently told Parliament that the seed supplies contracts were above board, should “give a proper explanation or resign”.

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