Maintaining Johor’s position as Malaysia’s fruit basket

Avocado is ranked first among non-local fruits currently grown in Johor.

AVOCADO is ranked first among non-local fruits currently grown in Johor.

State Agricultural Department director Yosri Mohd said there were currently six farmers growing avocados in Johor.

“The farms are located in Kulai, Batu Pahat, Tangkak, Kluang and Muar with trees ranging in age from one to five years.

“Other than that, we also have Brazilian grapes (jabuticaba) and abiu (pouteria caimito), a tropical fruit tree with Amazonian origins, growing in Kulai.

“There are figs being farmed in Johor Baru, lemons in Tangkak as well as Brazilian longan (matoa) in Mersing and Segamat,” he told StarMetro.

Yosri added that some farmers had also just ventured into grape farming in Mersing using the rain shelter concept.

These are structures designed to shield plants from excessive rainfall while not depriving them from sufficient sunlight, air and moisture.

“Some species of non-local fruits are suitable to be grown in Malaysia, as seen in the farming of avocados and matoa but they do require quality control and good agricultural practices (APB),” he said.

The department’s website says APB is a resource management system that can increase farm productivity and produce safe and quality food by considering the welfare, safety and health of workers as well as preserving the environment.

Yosri says there are about 25,000 registered fruit farmers in the state. (Right) Zahari says Johor contributed 34.5% to the nation’s fruit harvest last year.Yosri says there are about 25,000 registered fruit farmers in the state. (Right) Zahari says Johor contributed 34.5% to the nation’s fruit harvest last year.

Yosri noted that there were also non- local fruits not suited to Johor because of topography, climate, lack of seasons and difference in environment compared to the fruit’s country of origin.

These factors would significantly affect the fruit’s growth, size, shape and taste, he added.

Yosri also said there was a demand for non-local fruits in the Malaysian market because of changes in the lifestyle and diet of consumers, especially those living in urban areas.

There is also demand for such fruits from the agricultural downstream market such as the production of juices, health foods and isotonic drinks.

There were about 25,000 registered fruit farmers in Johor and the top five most grown fruits are pineapple, durian, white guava, papaya and banana, he added.

Asked about the department’s role in helping those interested to go into farming, Yosri said it was ready to assist in the form of courses and incentives.

“Each year, the department organises training courses for entrepreneurs venturing into farming as well as agriculture downstream activities.

“We are responsible for expanding agriculture knowledge, transfer of technology, and being the centre of reference when farmers come across plant diseases.

“The department also provides soil analysis services to ensure that crops are suitable to be planted in certain locations.”

Yosri said nearly RM20mil was given by the state and federal governments annually to help local farmers through several initiatives including developing the fruit and vegetable farming industry, increasing padi production, modernisation and social networking programmes.

The department also provides assistance such as equipment, seeds, fertiliser, pesticide, infrastructure, irrigation supplies and farming expertise to those who need it.

Johor agriculture, agro-based industry and rural development committee chairman Datuk Zahari Sarip said the state was the largest fruit producer in 2022, contributing 34.5% of the nation’s harvests.

“Last year, our farms spanning 50,217ha produced 772,317.4 tonnes of fruits.

“As for vegetables, Johor is the second largest producer after Pahang at 245,330 tonnes from farms spanning 17,188.3ha,” he said.

The state government wants to increase its food production and strengthen Johor’s position as the nation’s food basket and to supply to countries in the region, Zahari added.

“We are targeting to increase the yields of fruits by 33.61% or 230,436 tonnes by 2027.

“The focus fruits will be papaya, durian, pineapple, banana, watermelon, Malaysian jackfruit and coconut.

“For vegetables, we aim to increase the harvests by another 39.9% or 44,977 tonnes by 2027 where focus will be given to chilli, ginger, ladies finger, long beans, mustard leaves and cucumber,” he said.

In order to achieve the targets, the state government would be working with relevant agencies to offer incentives to farmers.

“This includes providing agricultural land, basic infrastructure, seeds, technology and Internet of Things, irrigation system, equipment, machinery and harvest collection centres, to name a few.

“We are also working on increasing export activities to bring local produce to a wider market, like what we’ve done with Malaysian honey jackfruit (nangka madu).

“Next year, two local companies will be exporting 100 containers of the fruit (per year) to China, which is about 500 to 600 tonnes.

“We hope nangka madu can reach global popularity like durian and pineapple.

“Currently, we are exporting pineapples to Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, Dubai, Qatar and European countries,” he said. — By YEE XIANG YUN

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