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Opportunities Aplenty in Agriculture For Youngsters

In its bid to offer a platform for the public, especially young talents  to showcase their creative works, TVS features another article by Taylor’s University’s Raja Balqis Batrisyia Raja Dato Sri Sulaiman from the School of Media and Communication

Agriculture is the backbone of a country’s economy. However, many youngsters do not realise the benefits of this sector. Young graduates look down on agriculture and tend to shy away from the agriculture, thus missing the opportunities that can lift their life and standard of living too.

Recently, I was able to score an exclusive interview with one of the entrepreneurs who owns a Harumanis mango orchard in Perlis. His name is Mr. Zairul and a graduate! The young entrepreneur provided personal insights on the hardships and successes story of his journey in the agriculture industry.  

A sharing session with Department of Agriculture and young agriculture venturers

Mr. Zairul started the interview by stating “Being a farmer is a long-term commitment. They have to be passionate about growing things and love the land they are farming on.” He’s always had the love and passion for farm and agriculture. In fact, he graduated in the field of agriculture from Universiti Teknologi Mara. Upon graduating, the young agropreneur worked in the poultry business.

Zairul started his journey in agriculture through establishment of his joint venture company, Dimensi Agro Jaya with the help from Perlis Agriculture Department two years ago. When asked why he decided to make the switch from poultry to the farm and agriculture industry, he smiled and proudly mentioned, “Not many youngsters are willing to work in the industry, let alone for the biggest manufacturer and distributor of Premium Perlis Harumanis Mangoes.” From his expression, you could instantly tell that he is proud of his decision. Encik Zairul spotted a once in a lifetime opportunity and grabbed it.

Patience brings success

As Zairul and his business partners are new to the field, the trio only worked on trading Harumanis mangoes during the first year of joining the industry. Early April to the end of June of this year was the first time his team worked on distributing and selling Dimensi Agro Jaya’s own plantations.

Prior to venturing in agriculture, Encik Zairul and his business partners sold their assets in order to gather money to pay their farm investment. He stated in the interview that The Perlis Agriculture Department would provide the agropreneurs with both emotional and physical support by sponsoring them tools and equipment such as fruit pesticides, fruit harvest blades, pyramid double edge sickle, seeds and other machineries .

A myGAP incentive came right on time to Encik Zairul and his partners by the Perlis Agriculture Department upon starting their project. “Without a myGAP license, the company would not be able to export its goods internationally or ensure consumers top notch quality mangoes.” said the agropreneur.

myGAP license certifies the farm as an environmentally friendly and ensures the welfare and safety of employees to produce quality edible products. In short, myGAP endorses an agricultural product as safe for consumption.

Reality of agriculture industry

Hard work doesn’t come easy. The harder you work the more rewarding the outcome will be. “Most of the population have a perception that the agriculture business is straightforward and unchallenging. However, there are a lot of steps and processes that need to be adhered to,” said Mr. Christopher John Biai, Deputy Director of Crops Industry Development Division, Department of Agriculture. Zairul agrees and added, “Harumanis mangoes are difficult to manage. The fruit requires a lot of time and attention for the plants to bloom and maintain its freshness.” It takes the plantation a total of four years to properly bloom. So, patience, hard work and dedication is crucial throughout the whole process.  

Another issue that the business has faced is IFR which stands for Insidious Fruit Rot. This is when the exterior of the fruit looks fresh but is rotten on the inside. When customers receive these mangoes with IFR condition, the company will take the initiative to immediately send new fruits for them to consume. This proves that Dimensi Agro Jaya cares about its customers and take quality control very seriously.

Although the job is physically and mentally tiring, he has managed to learn a lot throughout the two years of him working in the field. When asked in the interview if he enjoys his job, he nodded and said “Of course I enjoy my job! I only have to work from April to June and spend the rest of my time growing plantations.”

Even though Zairul is only required to work for a total of three months each year, the income is more than enough for him to manage for the rest of the year. “The demand and supply strategy are easy to accomplish and gets sufficient income.” Zairul says.

The programme

A non-monetary grant is given by the government that takes the form of a transfer of a non-monetary asset such as land, equipment and other resources. The grants are valued as high as RM20,000 and can be given in the form of equipment such as seeds, animal breeds, machinery or advisory services.

“More than 5,000 young agropreneurs have benefited from this non-monetary grant under the Young Agropreneur Programme,” said MAFI Deputy secretary-general, Datuk Haslina Abdul Hamid. “Some of the young agropreneurs, who participated in our programme, are now earning much more than what they used to get before,” she said.

The industry is trying their best to shift the nation’s perspective of the farm and agricultural industry whilst improving on the economy by trying to reduce the unemployment rate in Malaysia, increase the production of fruits and vegetables and generate an income for both themselves and the nation.

 ‘The Young Agropreneur Programme’ was invented and established by the Ministry of Agriculture & Food Industry (MAFI) in 2014 for the locals aged between 18 to 40 years old.

The aim for this programme is to encourage youths to participate in agricultural activities including all activities in the agricultural industry value chain such as crops and food processing, marketing and technical advice as well as basic industries farming and agrotourism projects.

“I know agriculture is not the choice of most youths, but this must change because agriculture has very good prospects”, says Ramana, a successful participant of MAFI Young Agropreneur Programme.

MAFI encourages the local youths to consider in joining the farm and agricultural programme and motivate them to be successful in their ventures so that we can grow as a nation.

The industry aspires to shift the agricultural industry perspective to a more charismatic, competitive, modern and high income job in the agricultural sector. This is to assist the participants to evolve and expand throughout their journey into the foreign market and cultivate profits. Young agropreneurs’ income can be enhanced through improvement of productivity, quality, technology, and innovation with a competitive market. 

It is time to shift the mindset of the young graduates and venture agriculture. Food is source of energy and this country need young, energetic and intellectuals to move its economy through agriculture. A country is crippled if we are dependent on outside sources for food. Let’s save ours.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of TVS.

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