KOTA BHARU – The government will continue to empower rubber smallholders in order to form an economic group that has a huge impact on national development.

Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said the government through the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) will continue to strive to raise the income of smallholders through supplementary economic activities (AET).

“Risda will conduct research on potential side businesses that the smallholders wanted to do before being given assistance including equipment and also livestock so they can generate extra income, without depending solely on the rubber plantation,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters at the Kelantan Risda Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration at state Risda office compound last night. Also present was Kelantan Risda director Mohd Zulkifli Hassan.

According to Radzi, when the rubber price fell in the past, smallholders did not have side income to cushion the falling rubber prices.

“We hope AET continues to be empowered, so that this group will enjoy better benefits to strengthen the country’s economy, as well as a buffer (solution) during a fall in rubber prices,” he said.

He added, Risda now through AET is focusing on the monitoring of the smallholders who are involved, and not merely providing assistance to them.

“We do not want to just provide assistance and stop there, but what is important is that we want to continuous monitoring. If there is no re-assessment or monitoring, we worry these smallholders will use the wrong method which will affect their optimal output or profit,” he explained.

Radzi added Risda has targeted a monthly income of RM4,000 per household by 2020 for rubber tappers.

For the record, Risda currently has 552,543 rubber smallholders nationwide of which, 16,436 are entrepreneurs.