Agriculture and Food Supplies in Sarawak during the Japanese Occupation

  • R. A. Cramb
Part of the Studies in the Economies of East and South-East Asia book series (SEESEA)


This chapter examines the economic impact of the 1941–5 Japanese occupation on agriculture in Sarawak, with particular reference to food production. Sarawak, which up to 1941 was an independent state in British Borneo, was not a major target for Japanese economic expansionism. Japanese policy documents from the years immediately preceding the occupation indicate that, relative to Luzon, Malaya or Sumatra, Borneo was not considered to have high potential for agricultural or industrial development but, along with Mindanao and New Guinea, was regarded as an ‘undeveloped region’.1 At the same time, its valuable forest resources were clearly recognized and targeted for immediate exploitation, as were the productive oilfields at Miri and Seria (the latter in Brunei territory). Regardless of the low priority initially accorded Sarawak’s agriculture, the exigencies of war meant that increasing attention had to be paid to food production, to sustain both the occupying forces and the local population.2 Before the occupation, perhaps half the country’s rice requirements were imported. Hence the Japanese administration faced the major challenge of rapidly boosting domestic food production and supplies.


Food Production Sweet Potato Paddy Cultivation Japanese Occupation Paddy Production 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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  • R. A. Cramb

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