KOTA BELUD: Padi-planting activities in Kota Belud, Sabah’s rice bowl area, are being conducted without any disruptions since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed on March 18,  director of the Kota Belud Integrated Agricultural Development Area (IADA), Salmah Labulla said.

She said operations in the 8,500-hectare padi area under Kota Belud IADA were as usual after the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry through the Padi and Rice Industry Division issued a circular stating that agriculture activities could be conducted during the MCO period.

“Initially, everyone was afraid to operate as usual. However, after getting the circular, our agencies, including the farmers have carried on with their activities as usual. The padi mills here are also operating.

“However, currently, most of the padi-growing areas in Kota Belud are at the growing, not harvesting, stage. There are not many activities going on. The farmers need only carry out activities like spraying pesticide, monitoring water flow and weed growth,” she told Bernama.

Salmah added that although there have not been any complaints from the farmers, they had difficulty getting agricultural goods as the shops selling them were closed during the MCO period.

However the Kota Belud IADA had applied to the district office to allow these shops to operate during certain specified hours, she said.

Salmah added that the Kota Belud Farmers’ Association also played a role in sending fertiliser to the villages to be distributed to the farmers.

“The IADA Kota Belud will also write to the state government to ask for masks to protect the farmers,” she said.

Salmah also said the self-sufficiency level for padi production was only 30 per cent, but operations must continue so as to ensure sufficient padi supply.