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Saturday April 2, 2011

Welcome to Tambun — land of pomeloes

SPEAKING in simple Bahasa Malaysia and with lots of gestures, Lin Swee Kiew was a picture of confidence as she went about introducing pomeloes to a group of teachers and students from Kuala Lumpur.

It is no sweat for this 63-year-old farmer as she has been receiving local and foreign tourists since 10 years ago.

The visitors, from SMK Taman Melati, Setapak, were attentive and appreciative of her efforts.

Succulent: Students from SMK Taman Melati, Setapak, admiring a pomelo at Tambun Chin Farm in Tambun

Located along Tambun Road, about 6km from Ipoh city, the orchard — Tambun Chin — is run by Lin, her 66-year-old husband Chin Too Kam and four workers.

The first stop in the orchard for tourists is under a 30-year-old pomelo tree where the introduction of the fruits takes place.

Lin explained that there were two types of pomeloes — the cream colour flesh with a sweet taste and pinkish colour flesh with a sweet sour taste.

“Some 90% of pomeloes are of the sweet type. The sweet sour type is rare, more expensive, but it is getting more popular,” she said.

As to why Tambun is famous for producing big, juicy and sweet pomeloes, Chin said this had a lot to do with the limestone hills surrounding the area.

“The air is cool and the soil has the right composition of minerals which are conducive for pomelo farming,” he added.

Gift of nature: Tambun, surrounded by limestone hills, is conducive for pomelo farming.

Chin certainly knows the difference as he had grown pomeloes in Bercham before moving to Tambun about 20 years ago.

Tracing the history of pomeloes in the country, Chin said the story was that the citrus fruit which had its origins from Bali, was brought to then Malaya by a Chinese trader by the surname of Loh more than a century ago.

“That is why pomeloes are called limau bali. It was only 20 years ago that our state government decided to rename the fruit to limau tambun,” Chin noted with pride, adding that the story on the origin of pomeloes was passed down from at least three generations.

Making a choice: SMK Taman Melati teacher Norhaslizawati Jusof (with tudung) at the stall in Tambun Chin Farm, Ipoh.

According to him, a 30-year-old tree can produce about 300 pomeloes a year, and trees as old as 60 years can still bear fruits if they are healthy.

He said there were some 4,000ha of pomelo orchards in Perak in the 1960s but the number had dwindled over time, adding that there were only about 1,400ha currently.

However, pomelo farming in Tambun, in particular, is set to make a big comeback soon.

High yields: Healthy pomelo trees bear fruits all year round.

The Perak Government has recently approved land titles involving 44.5ha for about 70 farmers in Tambun who had toiled on the land for many decades.

Perak executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, who had commended the farmers for their hard work and ingenuity in pomelo farming, said the farms had a huge potential to become an agro-tourism hot spot in the state.

He had brought an expert in promotion and branding from Taiwan, Professor Lee Hsin Moh to Tambun last year to see how to promote the pomeloes and farms in a big way.

Environmental friendly: A container with a special scent is used to trap insects. The product from Taiwan helps to reduce the use of insecticides.

“After getting their land titles, the farmers should feel more confident to invest more in their farms from now on,” Dr Mah said.

He noted that the farmers, like Chin and Lin, were also visionary in that they were promoting their produce using environmental friendly farming methods.

Free power supply: The Tambun Chin Farm uses solar energy for its lamps in the farm.

Besides using solar powered lights and homemade enzymes as insecticides, the couple are also using scented containers from Taiwan to trap the insects.

The Tambun Chin Orchard is, in-deed, a model farm in many ways.

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