KORIDOR Utara is projected to contribute 37% of the national padi production in 2015 and increase the figure by 2% in 2020.“The nation is currently at 70% self-sufficiency level with the average yield of 4.2 tonnes per ha.
“Our goal is to achieve a yield of eight tonnes per ha in the northern region by 2020 to continue contributing to the nation’s food security agenda,” said Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) chief executive Datuk Redza Rafiq.
Koridor Utara, the Northern Corridor Economic Region, is the largest rice producer in the country.
Its main goal is to realise the region as a zone of modern food production in order to improve the income and living standards of farmers.
“This goal can be achieved if we produce on a commercial scale by using modern agricultural technology, provide the buy-back structure and encourage investment from the local and international private sector,” said Redza.
He explained that the NCIA’s agenda is therefore to enhance all supply chain activities.
“This we hope to achieve by leveraging on an approach of creating a collective impact together with other stakeholders such as BiotechCorp, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), Department of Agriculture and institutions of higher learning,” continued Redza.
Aside from padi production, Koridor Utara produced RM280mil worth of vegetables in the region contributing to the regional bioeconomy.
“There is still potential for growth in Koridor Utara especially as an alternative area for the production of vegetables, in light of the pressure being placed on Cameron Highlands,” stated Redza.
He said the current vegetable consumption in Malaysia was 35kg per capita while the World Health Organisation’s recommendation was 70kg per capita.
“With greater awareness of healthy lifestyle and the improving purchasing power of the population, we can foresee an increase in the demand for vegetables,” said Redza.
Currently, Malaysia is importing vegetables to the tune of RM1.9bil per annum. Besides rice and vegetables, the herbal industry is also gaining ground.
“There is now greater adoption of herbal and nutraceuticals as part of the healthy lifestyle culture.
“The shift of the healthcare industry towards natural products with therapeutic value provides vast opportunities for Malaysia to become a significant global player, given our rich biodiversity,” Redza remarked.
Malaysia’s tropical rainforest is home to about 185,000 species of fauna, 12,500 species of flowering plants and 1,100 species of ferns, many of which can be transformed into food sources in the future or utilised for biological control of pests that ravage food crops.
“The biologically active compounds in these indigenous plants could be potential starters for drugs, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and vaccines through processing and biotechnology,” adds Redza.
The biotechnology industry is one of NCIA’s core thrust areas to propel the Malaysian economy.
In addition to agriculture bioeconomy, other clusters of the biotechnology industry that contribute to the economy include biomedical and industrial biotechnology.
Penang currently houses the second largest medical devices industry in Malaysia.
According to Redza, the rapid development and growth of this industry was attributed to the 40-year presence of strong and capable supporting industries.
“Their exceptional experience provides operational advantages that include short development cycles, steeper learning curves and reduced cost and time to market,” he explained.
The supporting industries referred to by Redza include precision engineering and metal work, automation, precision plastic and electronic manufacturing services.
“Clinical trial is another sector in the biomedical industry that thrives in the northern region.
“Under the healthcare sector in the National Key Economic Areas (NKEA), Malaysia has set up a key performance index whereby 1,000 clinical trials will be conducted through industry sponsored research on drugs and medical devices by year 2020,” said Redza.
Both private and public hospitals in Koridor Utara are active in conducting clinical trials in the various therapeutic areas, including but not limited to oncology, neurology, psychiatry and infectious diseases.
“Our role is to attract the players in the clinical trials sector to conduct their activities in this region and to ensure that the ecosystem is in place for such activities,” he said.
Industrial biotechnology, referred to as the application of biological based systems in the manufacturing of industrial products or support of industrial process, is still in its infancy stage in the northern region.
“While this has been widely applied in most developed countries to convert waste into wealth, we are at the stage of assessing the relevant technologies and innovation as well as investors to overcome the problem of municipal solid waste; as well as that of paddy straw and husks,” said Redza.
With these ecosystems in place, Redza expressed confidence that Koridor Utara is poised to attract local researchers to push their current scientific findings towards clinical trials.
The articles were facilitated by Malaysian Biotechnology Corp.