JOHOR BARU - Idle land in the state will be converted into cultivation areas to enhance Johor's position as the country's main food producer, said Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
He said there were lots of idle land in the state that would be beneficial if used for agriculture and other agro-based activities.
"Rather than leaving the land empty, it is better if we could convert it into agricultural land, which would be useful and productive."
Besides edible crops, he said, the land could be planted with crops for the biotechnology industry.
Khaled said this after launching the BioMalaysia and BioEconomy Asia Pacific 2013 conference here yesterday. Present were Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry's secretary-general Datuk Dr Rosli Mohamed, Malaysian Biotechnology Corp chairman Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid and BiotechCorp chief executive officer Datuk Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal.
Khaled said the move to use idle land was part of effort to transform, strengthen and develop the state's agricultural sector.
"The agricultural sector has contributed to Johor's progress over the years, which constitutes 30 per cent of the country's total production.''
He said Johor remained the main producer of fruits, vegetables, poultry and eggs in the country, and the use of the idle land would help maintain its position.
He added that the Bio Desaru Food Valley project at a 3,642.17ha site in Kota Tinggi would boost food production. The project has attracted RM2 billion in investments since it started in 2009.
"It would take at least eight years to fully develop the land into an organic farming area," Khaled said.
He said Johor would collaborate with BiotechCorp in a joint-venture project to develop idle land to plant crops for the biotechnology industry, which was expected to start in the first quarter of next year.
"We want to go into the biotechnology sector in a big way. In the years to come, we will be focusing on two sub-segments, namely bioindustry and biomedical.''
The three-day conference and exhibition, which is being held for the first time outside Kuala Lumpur, is a major biotechnology event in the region. More than 250 local and international delegates, and 160 exhibitors are participating this year.