Tapping on China’s big demand for our durians and pineapples

A file picture of a Top Fruits Sdn Bhd employee holding a sample of local durian used for the company’s food product. The company has access to exporting durians to the Chinese market.

KUCHING: Sarawak is inviting investors from mainland China to venture into large-scale planting of pineapple and durian, which are of great demand in their country.

State Modernisation of Agriculture,Native Land and Regional Development Ministry permanent secretary Datuk Ik Pahon Joyik said Sarawak needed injection of capital from overseas investors and smart farming techniques in commercial cultivation of pineapple and durian which the ministry had identified as the selected fruit crops in the next five to 10 years.

“Sarawak has advantages in its vast area of agriculture land for farming. Currently, we have two million hectares of land still available for agriculture.

“We have identified areas in Betong, Sarikei and Bintangor under the food basket regions,” he added in a paper presentation on “Sarawak Agriculture: Opportunities and Potentials” at the inaugural Sarawak-China Business Forum here.

Some 500 participants, including those from China, attended the two-day event hosted by the State International Trade and eCommerce Ministry.

Ik Pahon said there were currently 1,769ha planted with pineapples.

This year,he said the ministry focused on rehabilitation of durian trees and would venture into new planting of good quality durian species in the next two to three years.

“China has a big demand for durian. The state government has signed an agreement with Top Fruits Sdn Bhd, which has access to the Chinese market (in exporting durian),” he added.

Johor-based Top Fruits, which has big durian estates, is one of the pioneer exporters of Malaysian durian and honey jackfruit in the region. It owns factories to process and pack the fruits to ensure freshness is preserved. The company’s director Dr Tan Sue Sian was one of the speakers at the forum.

Ik Pahon said in the past five to 10 years, Sarawak’s agriculture focus was on commodities, like oil palm and pepper cultivation.

He said to achieve its goal of becoming a food products’ exporter by 2030, Sarawak had to go commercial in food production of selected fruit crops and into downstream processing activities.

Besides capital injection from investors, he said it had to adopt modern farming technologies, like the use of drones.

Ik Pahon said Sarawak imported some RM4.6bil worth of food, including fish, meat, vegetables and fruits, last year but only exported RM1.2bil worth of agricultural produces last year.

“So,the ministry feels that this trend has to change.”

The agriculture sector contributed 13.2% or RM14.1bil to the state gross domestic product (GDP) last year.

According to Ik Pahon, Sarawak is opening up three more areas, including in Tatau, Bintulu, for centralised pig farming.

Sarawak has been exporting live pigs to Singapore and he sees China as the next potential market.

On swiftlet farming, he said Sarawak had good collaboration with China on this, adding that it was finding ways to engage with big players in the industry. Based on statistics, Sarawak has several thousands of bird houses in swiftlet breeding.

Ik Pahon said several Chinese investors were interested to venture into the rearing and production of tilapia fish in the state.

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