A NEW EQUATION FOR AN INCLUSIVE BIOECONOMY
YBhg Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal CEO of BiotechCorp
The Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department is in the midst of preparing the Eleventh Malaysia Plan or Rancangan Malaysia ke-11 (RMKe-11). Certainly, the RMKe-11 economic blueprint is the nation’s final five-year development plan before achieving the goal of a developed nation status by 2020.
In RMKe-11, economic growth and development are focused on empowering the people and moving towards the creation of a “People’s Economy”. To do that, the approach will have to relate to the human resources or human capital, together with their welfare, wellbeing and wellness. More importantly, growth and wealth created must be distributed in a socially and economically equitable manner.
In the bio-based sector, and in line with the people-centric concept, the Bioeconomy Community Development Programme (BCDP), which is designed to harness the power of rural farms and the farming community to supply raw materials for creating new and innovative bio-based products, is aimed at creating an inclusive bio-based sector that will benefit the rakyat. For it to be successful, the role of agriculture cooperatives is crucial.
A cooperative is a business organization owned by farmers to collectively sell their farm produce. It allows growers to accomplish collective functions they couldn’t achieve on their own. As most agricultural producers have relatively little power or no influence with large agribusinesses that purchase their commodities, joining with other producers in a cooperative concept/manner can empower them in the marketplace. More importantly, cooperatives give producers more control over their products by allowing them to bypass one or more middlemen in the market channel. In this sense, farmers capture more of the returns that would otherwise go to others.
For example, in the United States, cooperatives are found in every region and handle most farm products. In many traditional cooperatives, membership is open to anyone wanting to sell product and usually requires little or no investment. Cooperatives perform many functions, including collecting the produce from number of growers into larger lots to facilitate more efficient handling and competitive pricing. These cooperatives also enable producers to gain market access or negotiating power against much larger buyers.
With respect to bio-based products, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred Program aimed at increasing the purchase and use of renewable bio-based products was created through the Farm Act and later expanded as part of the Agricultural Act. Put into motion, the increased development, purchase, and use of bio-based products and raw materials by federal agencies, bio-based companies and consumers in the country will increase the use of renewable agricultural resources, which will create value-add for farmers as well.
Replicating all these into BCDP, similar cooperatives model with the involvement of BioNexus companies will be a new approach and will allow local farmers to know what crop to grow and what pricing are found in the market, a service not available otherwise. Looking at the bigger picture, the overall equation is straightforwardly simple; BCDP works to increase the purchase and use of raw materials produced through contract farming between farmers and bio-based companies. Along the bioeconomy value chain, the rural community, through its cooperatives will be the primary producer leading to bio-based products for the consumer market. At the same time, BiotechCorp will facilitate bio-based companies, in particular BioNexus Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), to bring locally produced bio-based products to the market.
Translating Science to Business, the impact of BCDP initiative is immense to benefit both farmers and bio-based companies. For a start, the introduction and adoption of biotechnological tools and greenhouses technologies into current farming practices will certainly transform the livelihood of the farming community through increased yield and value of farm produce. The growing global market of high-value wellness products will be a lucrative business for local farmers to tap on for income generation. More importantly, the innovative business model of BCDP will allow contract farmers to cultivate only the needed produce based on the demand of the companies.
The adoption of advanced agriculture practices complimenting traditional farming method is also expected to attract the younger generation to take up farming as a profession. All in all, it clearly put into perspective of what I have previously mentioned in the January column; we will now have to focus on attracting talents especially the young back to the farm.
It is the expansion of the bio-based economy to include the people and farm commodities coupled with the role of cooperatives that will help spur economic development, create new jobs and provide new markets. In addition to enhancing the role and contribution of farmers, the BCDP will correspondingly elevate the socio-economic status of rural communities by opening up new avenue for wealth generation.
To date, substantial bio-based investment in the country has resulted in the building of a robust biotechnology ecosystem, given the strong leadership that Malaysia enjoys as one of the first countries in the Asia Pacific region to have a proper bioeconomy agenda, has been a great combination for spurring further the bio-based industry growth. In today’s globalised market, having a proper game plan gives the nation a competitive advantage that will facilitate the attraction of new strategic investments to stimulate economic growth.
Starting next year, with the NBP entering its third and final phase of “Going Global”, more efforts will be placed to improve the revenue stream and technological capabilities of BioNexus companies. By doing so, the organisation aims to empower local bio-based companies into achieving global status. Hence, further to “Going Global”, strategies for “Moving Science to Business” will continue to stay relevant and will be executed in parallel during Phase III.
It is important to note that the 11th Malaysia Plan, which will be the last phase of Malaysia’s 5-year plan, will focus on people’s wellbeing and high income achievement through inclusive and sustainable development, ensuring the success of the final five years of Malaysia’s progress to a high-income advanced economy by 2020. For that reason, the utmost important goal to be achieved in parallel with the RMKe-11 would be to position bioeconomy as a significant economic contributor to the national economy by continuously identifying new sources of growth for the nation.