Some words of wisdom: FAMA chairman Tan Sri Badruddin Amiruldin with Myagrosis participants Pix Courtesy of FAMA
By Wan Asmanizan Wan Ahmad Najib
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- The younger generation may not find the agricultural sector alluring or as the one that suits their lifestyle especially when one has to toil under the hot sun and get their hands soiled.
Hence, Gen X, Y and Z shy away from the agricultural sector. They also hold to a misplaced notion that the sector does not promise an image to be proud off or wealth. This is where they are wrong!
A number of young Malaysians today have emerged as successful agricultural entrepreneurs (agropreneurs) and have carved a niche for themselves in the sector, thanks to the efforts taken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MOA) to lure the youths, especially graduates, to make a foray into agriculture.
In drawing graduates into agriculture, the ministry through its agency Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA) has rolled out the Agriculture Graduate Entrepreneurs Club (MyAgrosis) at local higher institutions of learning.
Exposing graduates to agriculture is seen important as it provides an avenue for unemployed graduates to earn, what more the agricultural sector's potential has yet to be fully explored. With better knowledge and skills at hand, graduates could well help transform the country's agricultural sector into a dynamic one.
Many are not aware that properly managed farming activities promise lucrative returns, better than fixed salaried jobs.
In exposing the hidden potential of the agricultural sector and entrepreneurship, FAMA has extended MyAgrosis to the private higher learning institutions, Institut Kemahiran Bina Negara (IKBN) and polytechnics
"The participation of the younger generation in agriculture and agro-based industries that include crop planting activities, food production, farm animal breeding, fisheries, and plantations remain insufficient. Hence, that is why we want to call upon more highly educated youngsters to venture into agriculture at a commercial scale. We will guide them in becoming successful agricultural entrepreneurs," said FAMA Chairman Tan Sri Badrudin Amiruldin.
Those who join MyAgrosis will enjoy systematic support and assistance that could help them emerge as successful agricultural entrepreneurs. Other than providing places like the farmer's market and agrobazaar shops for MyAgrosis participants to market their products, FAMA also helps them to take their products up to the international markets.
There are many success stories. Among them is Mohd Faris Abdul Salim whose fried onions has made its way to Japan and China. The delicacy is sold under the brand name Nuha Bawang Goreng Premium produced by his company NQ Group Entreprise.
Another entrepreneur who has managed to penetrate the international market with FAMA's help is Cik Aslinah Aslam, whose chocolate sold under the Malsa and Asprincza label has made its way to China, Singapore and now to United Arab Emirates. Cik Aslinah, markets her products through her company Azaib Holdings Sdn. Bhd.
Her chocolates are available at major retail stores like Aeon, Cold Storage, Jaya Grocer and the outlets at airports KLIA 1 dan KLIA2 in Sepang.
Apart from the names above, there are many more MyAgrosis entrepreneurs who are slowly rising through the guidance of FAMA and the related government agencies.
Among them are Nur Izzati Abdul Razak, Mohd Shahrizal Shazuan Mohd Saufi and Addy Rendra Samuri.
"I'm operating the ZT Coconut Trading company in Sungai Buloh, Selangor with my husband, Muhammad Azhar Abdul Rahman. With FAMA's assistance, ZT Coconut now records good monthly returns," said Nur Izzati from Kedah, who is also the manager of ZT Coconut Trading.
Mohd Shahrizal, the director of Loyang House Sdn Bhd, is an accountancy graduate from Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) with her business partner Siti Hajar Zainal is into bakery equipment supply business.
Both were the recipients of MyAgrosis Young Agropreneur financial assistance when they started their business in October 2015.
Meanwhile, Addy Rendra Samuri is a young farmer involved in rock melon farming through his business setup Bumi Suria Tech Sdn Bhd. The mechanical engineering graduate from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and German Malaysian Institute (GMI) had once worked in Dubai for two years before making a transition to agriculture.
Addy Rendra has far vision in changing the perceptions on the agriculture sector.
"The support provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries through its agencies like FAMA, Mardi, and Agrobank has contributed to the success of the rock melon venture.
"Though we see the prospects to export the rock melon based on the inquiries from countries like Singapore and Indonesia, we will concentrate on the local market first," he said.
These are some of the success stories created by MyAgrosis and this is what FAMA wants to see other graduates achieving.
THE BENEFITS OF MYAGROSIS MEMBERSHIP
The products from MyAgrosis entrepreneurs will have a place at the FAMA marketing platforms throughout the country. Among the platforms are the MyBestBuy markets, FAMA farmer's markets (Pasar Tani), Kedai Agrobazaar, K-Shoppe, and the AgroBazaar store being developed in Putrajaya.
FAMA provides interest free initial financing for graduates who participate in the MyAgrosis programme through the MyAgrosis Young Agropreneur Micro Credit. The credit facility prerequisites have been made easy with the parents being the referral persons and the applicant having a clear idea in starting a business. The maximum financing provided is RM50,000 per applicant.
"After approval, FAMA will disburse the loan through the parents who also serve as the guarantors and those in charge of monitoring their son or daughter's undertaking.
"We are doing it with high hopes, we will be able to increase the number of food producers in the country and reduce food imports. We need successful agropreneurs who are competitive, their produce being of quality and made using advanced technology. This is what FAMA wants to achieve through MyAgrosis," said Badrudin.
Apart from the initial financing, FAMA also provides advice and guidance in maintaining quality, labelling & branding, marketing incentive, increasing output, managing the premises, obtaining quality certification, and procuring equipment and machineries.
OUR FOOD OUR CULTURE
Many of the highly educated Malaysians especially the Malays are not keen to venture into the agriculture and plantation sector. Therefore, FAMA wants to create awareness right from an early stage, from the higher education institutions.
Logo and uniforms will not suffice in taking the MyAgrosis label all over the nation and to the international stage. Interest and the commitment of the club members and agropreneurs are also important apart from the guidance of the agencies under MOA.
Undergraduates who are keen to join the club can contact state FAMA offices on how to venture into agriculture under MyAgrosis with the MyAgrosis membership form available at the higher education institutions, FAMA offices and MOA's website.
MYAGROSIS PHASE TWO-BERANDING AND MEMBERSHIP
Since its establishment in 2011, MyAgrosis's membership has risen to 36,342 with the members coming from 109 higher education institutions, including polytechnics and vocational colleges from all over the nation.
"It will help create a new economic power that will enhance the country's agricultural output and reduce the dependence on food imports," said FAMA Chairman Tan Sri Badrudin Amiruldin.
FAMA anticipates MyAgrosis membership to reach 50,000 before 2018 ends.
FAMA has also embarked on the second phase of MyAgrosis this year where it will be extended to greater number of private higher education institutions to create bigger number of agroprenuers.
FAMA is confident that it could meet the membership target based on the positive feedback it received when MyAgrosis was first introduced at the public higher learning institutions nationwide.
In September 2017, FAMA became the strategic partner of UniKL and this marked the beginning of the MyAgrosis membership drive in more private higher learning institutions.
Asked on the significance of the increase in MyAgrosis membership, Badrudin noted that graduates are the assets of the nation and they could help the nation generate wealth through the agricultural sector.