Opening Of The Third 10 ESD Conference 2017

October 6, 2017 at 1:12 pm



Y. B. Senator Datuk Chong Sin Woon
Deputy Minister of Education, Malaysia & MCA National Youth Chairman

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to all of you.

1. The welcoming address has reminded us that we have arrived at the third ESD Conference. ESD stands for Economic Strategic Direction. Each year, we focus on certain aspects of the economy, not just to deliberate on but to undertake activities to benefit Malaysians. I was really excited when I was informed that the theme for this year’s ESD Conference was focused on agriculture. Food is something very close not just to our stomachs but to our hearts. Malaysians of all walks of life often share a common greeting, “Sudah makan?”

2. Indeed, food and beverages make up more than 30% of Malaysia’s Consumer Price Index. According to the Department of Statistics, Malaysia’s CPI in July 2017 rose 3.2% year-on-year, mainly attributed to increase in cost of transportation and food.

Improving lives

3. Personally, I feel that improving lives of Malaysians is of utmost importance. It is not only the role for government but for everyone. One of the ways to do this is to grow some of our own food. Malaysians have a tendency to take things for granted. We are blessed with a climate that sustains agriculture, having ample sunshine and rain all year round. With some creativity, we can put food that we plant on to the table. The excess can even be exported.

4. More business and employment opportunities can be developed from agriculture. Research has shown that the guava, papaya, pineapples and mangoes that we can grow abundantly in Malaysia have higher Vitamin C content, than the oranges we import. Even the durian, one of our favourite fruits is rich in Vitamins C, A and B-6, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. Malaysians should be more aware of how lucky we are to have easy access to such nutritious and delicious fruits which can be sold at premium prices in foreign markets.

5. Our farms and orchards, if well planned, can double up as tourist attractions just as it is in developed countries. Agro hotels at farms and fishing villages can increase tourism receipts and generate better incomes.

6. In recent times, people are becoming more and more environmental and health conscious. This gives opportunities for Malaysians to grow organic fruits and vegetables and to position them internationally as Malaysia’s premium health brands. The growing demand in high value markets such as Japan, Europe and Korea has created a niche for Malaysian farmers and exporters.

7. Increasing production of food will reduce Malaysia’s food bill. Just take 4 items – rice, vegetables, fruit and nuts, as well as sea food. In 2016, Malaysia’s imports for all these items exceeded its exports.

Enhancing the role of the private sector

8. As part of Corporate Social Responsibility, companies are encouraged to let their employees grow vegetables at factories and offices. Land should not be kept idle. Instead of growing flowering plants, employees could plant vegetables and fruits. In this way, employees and their families benefit from such initiatives.

9. These initiatives have already been practised in many developed countries such as Japan, Taiwan and the USA. They have not been viewed as mere CSR initiatives but initiatives to strengthen esprit-de-corps among employees. Moreover, this gives corporations a ‘green’ image which is an edge as more and more businesses are concerned about the environment.

Reducing unemployment

10. I see agriculture and agro-businesses as a way to reduce unemployment especially amongst youth. The youth are the future of this country and we must find ways to ensure that their talent and energy do not go to waste. I believe that if they were given the opportunity, the know-how and the know-who, they will become successful entrepreneurs and farmers.

Opportunities for new businesses

Ladies and gentlemen,

11. In our modern world, creativity is the key to survival. If we look at the successful entrepreneurs of today, we see them in all types of sectors. People have made millions of dollars from the food business. Thus, agri business is really big business and should not be frowned upon by anyone, especially graduates.

12. Take for example, the CP Group from Thailand.

13. The CP group or the Charoen Pokphand Group is a Thai conglomerate that focuses on agribusiness, food, retail and distribution. Founded in 1921, CP is now in 20 countries. Its revenue last year was USD45 billion.

14. It is also important for us to realise that food brands are among top 100 brands in the world and are worth billions of dollars eg Coke, Nestle and Kellogg’s. Closer to home, we have successful food brands such as Ayamas, Julies, Brahim’s, Kawan, Nelson, Marigold, Cameron Organic Produce, Ghee Hiang, A1 and many more.

15. E-commerce and better logistics will soon revolutionise the food distribution business. Recognising that city folks are strapped for time, managing their lives between work and family, the internet and efficient delivery systems have made it possible for farming produce and even processed food to be delivered freshly and quickly. This trend is fast growing in Malaysia, offering yet another avenue for business.

16. For farmers and those in agro-businesses, the yield is very important. Technology has become an important differentiating factor to help these communities.

17. As I toured the Exhibition this morning, I realised how creative some of our farmers and agro-businesses have become. I also realise how passionate they are about farming and related businesses. They have spent time, energy and resources to achieve their successes. Blending their creativity with technology, they have been able to improve their businesses. I applaud them from the bottom of my heart and I wish to urge more Malaysians especially youth to follow in their foot steps to participate in agriculture/ agro-business and to adopt modern technologies for better success.

MCA as an enabler for youth development

Ladies and gentlemen,

18. MCA is not just another political party. We believe that nation building begins with the youth. As such, we have, for many years, been an enabler for youth development from educating them to equipping them with necessary skills and financial resources, making them into successful entrepreneurs.

19. Today, we are touching on agriculture as a vehicle for youth development and as a way to improve livelihood. The speakers and exhibitors that have been invited here have been carefully selected to give you some perspectives of this sector. They include experts from foreign and local universities such as Utar, UPM, the Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the National Pintung University of Science and Technology.

20. Various important and relevant Ministries and agencies such as, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agro-bank, JAKIM, MATRADE, etc have kindly accepted our invitation to be grace the Convention. These are important resource people who can give you a head start in the business or assist you in developing your businesses further.

21. Koperasi Petani Muda Malaysia, KOJADI and SAME are also here to facilitate start-ups in agribusinesses. I am especially pleased that successful business leaders in the field are here to share their experience and success stories. I understand that relevant technology for the industry and e-marketing will also be featured.

22. In this way, we bring to you not only the know how but also the know who in the agribusiness landscape. I sincerely hope that the participants of this Conference will take advantage of the tremendous effort that has been taken to bring all this to you. Hopefully, this will give impetus towards grooming more knowledgeable farmers and entrepreneurs for the nation.

23. Lastly, I wish to thank all speakers and exhibitors and extend my heartfelt appreciation to the MCA Youth and Koperasi Petani Muda for all their hard work in making this year’s ESD Conference a success.

Thank you.