Farmers urge developer to postpone project, lease land instead

Written by Fion YapPublished:  Jun 9, 2022 8:14 AM. Updated: 8:14 AMSource: MalaysiaKini 

A group of Perak farmers are appealing to land developer LBS Group to put a housing project on 250 acres of food-producing land in Changkat Kinding on hold, amid a food crisis in Malaysia.

Instead, the 38 farmers hope the conglomerate could lease the land to them instead as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative.

Seven representatives of the farmers and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) chairperson Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj came from Perak to Petaling Jaya to meet LBS Group’s management team yesterday morning.

According to Jeyakumar, the farmers received a ‘notice of occupying government land’ from the land office on May 18, requesting them to vacate the land within two weeks.


The notice says the farmers who “occupy government land without authority” are in violation of Section 425 of the National Land Code and, if convicted, may be fined up to RM500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both.

‘No longer govt land’

Jeyakumar said the farmers could not obtain land titles despite their families having farmed the area for three generations.

He reminded that the farmland was alienated to Generasi Simbolik Sdn Bhd in 2007, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of LBS Bina Holdings.


Therefore, the land is no longer government land. Hence, Jeyakumar said the land office should not cite Section 425 to issue a notice against the farmers.

The farmers have written to the Perak Menteri Besar’s Office on May 30 to appeal for the land office’s notice to be withdrawn.

No further action has been taken against the farmers so far even though the two-week deadline has lapsed, but they are still at risk of being evicted.

A variety of fruits and vegetables are cultivated on the farmland at Changkat Kinding, including Malabar spinach, maize, peanuts, durian, onions, papaya, sweet potatoes and okra. Tilapia and lotus roots are also farmed in ponds.

The area is equivalent to over 141 football fields.

Offer 10-year lease instead

Jeyakumar and the farmers are appealing to the LBS Group to postpone the housing project.

“Malaysia is facing a food crisis and food shortage, food prices are going up, this is not the right time to destroy the farmland.

“We sent a memorandum to LBS group and its chairperson Lim Hock San. We asked if the group could apply CSR, and have a leasing deal with the farmers.

“We’re not asking for land titles or free farmland, we could pay reasonable rental fees.”

He stressed that if the agricultural lands were destroyed, it would bring negative impacts to all Malaysians, not only the farmers.

PSM chairperson Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj speaking outside LBS Group’s office in Petaling Jaya.

“We have eight million hectares of agricultural land: 5.5 million hectares are used for oil palm plantations, 1.1 million for rubber plantations, and only 0.3 million hectares for vegetables.

“PSM’s stance is to keep the existing 0.3 million hectare land for vegetables, give them a lease. If they don’t use it for agriculture in the future, we can lease the land to new farmers.

“The development projects should get some land from the oil palm plantations, but not convert the farmland into housing or industrial area,” said Jeyakumar at a press conference after a 30-minute meeting with LBS Group.

Read more: Amid food crisis, an ‘invisible fortune’ is being robbed

The meeting was attended by the group’s general manager Loh Yin Hui. Loh said LBS Group acknowledges the memorandum but has not yet given any commitments or promises.

The management team may need to discuss the matter with the board, according to Jeyakumar.

LBS Group is a listed company which mainly engaged in property development and investment. Their market capitalisation is over RM700 million.

The memorandum

The memorandum to LBS Group also states that the 38 farmers are willing to pay a reasonable rent for the use of the land to continue producing food.

“We are aware that you might be paying land premiums at the residential rate, which is higher than the agricultural rate. But surely, if you exercise CSR and hold off on your housing development plans for the benefit of the nation, the Perak state government is prepared to reduce your land premium back to the agricultural rate.

“We do realise that the returns LBS Bina will get from renting this land to us will be much lower than the earnings from property development. But food insecurity is a real and present problem. Many ordinary Malaysians are suffering from the rising prices of food.

“We hope you can convince your LBS Group board members to exercise CSR and enter into a land leasing agreement with us,” the memorandum read.

Farmers’ lament

One of the meeting’s attendees, farmer Pon Kam Seng, told journalists that he cultivates 10 acres of land in Changkat Kinding, where the 50-year-old cultivates maize with the help of his uncle and mother.

The land office’s notice was hard for him to accept, he said, amid many difficulties growing his crop, including a shortage of workers, higher prices for fertilisers and pesticides, and poor harvests caused by climate change.

These factors have led him to switch from a variety of crops to maize, which is easier to cultivate.

“Our minister told us to grow more maize. I plant a lot, but how could I continue to grow it when I have no land? Do you grow them at home?

“How could I encourage my children to do farming in the future under such circumstances?” Pon lamented.

Farmer Pon Kam Seng.

Another farmer Wong Min hoped the developer could obtain another plot of land for the development project, and let the farmers continue to work on the existing land.

The 70-year-old grows crops and farms fish with the help of his son. He lamented that the government did not provide land for farmers.

“It’s impossible for us to buy land, we can’t afford it. Our income from selling vegetables fluctuated.

“The land belonged to the government before so we did not need to pay for farming, but our application for land titles was not approved although we have been here for three generations.

“I’m not sure (about the future of my son), it’s up to him (whether he wants to continue farming if the land were taken back eventually),” said Wong.

Farmer Wong Min (right).

Malaysia is facing increasing food insecurity as a shortage of chickens prompted the government to impose a moratorium on chicken exports until supplies stabilise, and plans to scrap the ceiling price for chicken at the end of this month.

In addition, increasing prices of fertilisers, pesticides and animal feed have pushed up prices of basic foods.

On May 30, Perak Menteri Besar Saarani Mohamad urged people to grow vegetables and rear livestock for their own consumption and to rely less on imported food.

According to the Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) statistics, Malaysia spends RM3.99 billion to import vegetables, while exports of vegetables are worth RM828 million, resulting in a trade deficit of RM3.16 billion.

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