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Agriculture and Food Supplies in Sarawak during the Japanese Occupation

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Food Production Sweet Potato Paddy Cultivation Japanese Occupation Paddy Production 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    R.H.W. Reece, The Name of Brooke: The End of White Rajah Rule in Sarawak ( Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1982 ), p. 143.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    R.H.W. Reece, ‘Economic Development under the Brookes’, in R.A. Crumb and R.H.W. Reece (eds), Development in Sarawak: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, Monash Papers on Southeast Asia No. 17 ( Melbourne: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, 1988 ).Google Scholar
  3. 80.
    R.A. Cramb, ‘A Survey of Chinese Farmers in the Sungai Tengah Area’. National Extension Project, Farm Management Report No. 1 (Kuching: Department of Agriculture, Sarawak, 1982); interview with Hii Siew Ann, Kuching, 12 Aug. 1992.Google Scholar
  4. 82.
    V.L. Porritt, ‘British Colonial Rule in Sarawak, 1946–1963’ (Ph.D. diss., Murdoch University, 1994 ), p. 283 n. 194.Google Scholar
  5. 85.
    J. Chin, ‘Reminiscences of the Japanese Occupation’, Journal of the Malaysian Historical Society, Sarawak Branch, no. 3 (1976), p. 16. Circumstances forced the urban population to learn how to grow and utilize root crops in particular. Ong Kee Hui (‘The Japanese Occupation: Extracts from an Interview’, p. 13) recalls that ‘people got to know how to use tapioca. Tapioca is a crop which can grow easily. You can get large quantities in a reasonably short time. This was, I think, what managed to help the civilian population to survive.’ Ismail Hassan, a civil servant in Kuching who was later sent to Jessleton, recalls that ‘people learnt how to make cakes out of tapioca and sweet potatoes. People made wine from tapioca and bananas and all kinds of fruit’: Ismail Hassan, ‘My Life During the Japanese Occupation’, Journal of the Malaysian Historical Society, Sarawak Branch No. 3 (1976), p. 19.Google Scholar
  6. 92.
    AR, Department of Agriculture, 1941, p. 6; J.C. Swayne, Administrative Report for 1931 (Kuching: Sarawak Government Printer, 1932 ), pp. 11, 12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. A. Cramb

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