ASAJAYA (Sarawak): Turning discarded coconut shells into chemical free charcoal is an income generating venture for the 6,000 coconut farmers in Asajaya and Sadong Jaya, a rural coastal belt in Samarahan, known as Sarawak’s main coconut producer.
These farmers have merged their efforts through the respective Farmers’ Area Organisations (PPKs), under the management of the State Agriculture Department, to set up Arang Peladang Daya Permai Sdn Bhd with an initial capital of RM200,000 in 1996 for its plant.
Compared to charcoal made from mangrove timber, which ultimately destroyed the natural biodiversity, the environment-friendly project is certainly a conservationist’s dream comes true.
The company’s managing director Anuar Daan said the charcoal making process also did away with the mounting problem of discarded husks and nut shells.
“These wastes are recycled to become money for the farmers. Now they (discarded shells) are no longer lying around the compound, indirectly cleaning up the environment,” Anuar said during a visit to the plant here, the only such facility in Sarawak, about 90km from Kuching.
Similar to the highway leading to the Sabahan north-eastern town of Kudat, the road to the Asajaya district, via a ferry crossing over the Sungai Samarahan, is literally lined with coconut trees over an area totalling 10,158ha.
Local boy Anuar, who is also the Asajaya District Agriculture Officer, said the plant which began operations in 1997, added value to the discarded wastes by processing them into charcoal in metal kilns or drums.
The villagers sell the raw materials at RM280 per tonne to the plant, which produces between six and seven tonnes of charcoal a day, well below the expected daily production of 180200 tonnes as demanded by its sole purchasing agent, the Assar Chemicals Trading Company.
Anuar said the charcoal would then be transported by containers to the Senari Port near Kuching to be exported to overseas markets, including India, South Korea, China, Taiwan as well as the gold mines in South Africa.
About 80 % of the processed product is categorised as Grade A, fetching as high as RM500 per metric tonne while Grade B is sold at RM480 per metric tonne and Grade C (RM440/tonne).
Anuar said due to the charcoal’s overwhelming overseas demand, for which it is widely used as a carbon active multipurpose agent in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing industry, the department had replanted 340ha of land in Asajaya with a new breed of coconut trees, which take only about three years to mature.
In the pipeline is a joint venture with Assar Chemicals to open up a 20,000ha coconut plantation, when Arang Peladang Daya’s new coconut husk and coil processing plant is set up by June this year.
The fibrous by-products can be used in the manufacturing of vehicle cushions and mattresses besides as coco pits in horticulture, Anuar said.– Bernama