A GROUP of cockle breeders in Nibong Tebal are appealing to the Penang Government to give them temporary occupancy licences (TOL) for their farms instead of them having to rent TOL land from a third party.
Penang Aquaculture Breeders Association’s Cockle Breeders Sub-committee chairman Chu Voon Fong, who represented 25 breeders, said they had been renting their farm land from a TOL holder for over 20 years.
Chu said they initially paid an annual rental of RM100 per acre but this was increased to RM140 per acre from 1998.
He claimed that the TOL holder, a non-governmental organisation, was paying only a mere RM3 per acre to the district office for the TOL permit.
“The TOL holder has also imposed a fee of 50 sen per sack of cockles that we harvest,” he told a press conference at a surau hall in Sungai Udang on Saturday.
Chu said the breeders were mainly from Sungai Udang, Changkat, Bukit Tambun, Sungai Chenaam, Pulau Aman and Sungai Bakau.
He said he knew of a few cockle breeders in other areas who only had to pay RM3 per acre directly to the district office for their TOL permits.
Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia chairman Badrul Hisham Shaharin, who arranged the press conference, said the affected breeders’ income had dwindled in the past few years, partly due to the construction of the Second Penang Bridge.
He hoped that the bridge builder could expedite negotiations to make reasonable ex-gratia payment to the affected breeders as soon as possible.
Penang Agriculture and Agro-based Industries, Rural Development and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Law Choo Kiang said that under the National Land Code, TOL holders were not allowed to lease or sublet their TOL land.
“Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng received a letter from the affected cockle breeders last month.
“The state exco will soon deliberate the matter before making a decision,” he said when contacted.
Law also said the state might review the conditions for the issuance of TOL to prevent cases of profiteering.