PUTRAJAYA: Technician Sabri Ali took up long-distance walking and eating kelulut honey for the sake of his health.
Never did the 55-year-old dream that he would become the official Government product ambassador for the honey, which Malaysia is now trying to position as its next big export.
To demonstrate the health benefits of the honey from stingless bees, the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry has commissioned Sabri for a solo 50-day, 2,000km walk across all 13 states and the Federal Territories to promote the product.
Called Kelulut Walk, it will begin on Oct 8 in the Shah Alam National Botanical Garden.
Sabri said he would be using kelulut honey in his drink to boost energy and topically for blisters.
“I’ve been doing such walks for two years now. Last time, I was only able to go 1,600km,” he said.
Then, a friend in Kedah who farms kelulut honey recommended it to him.
“So I mixed it with water. I find that I have a lot of energy now and more endurance. My legs don’t cramp so I drink it regularly now,” the grandfather of 12 told reporters.
Sabri said he had been preparing for his walk over the last two months, incorporating exercises before and after work and taking two tablespoons of the honey daily.
The ministry endorsed him for its publicity campaign during a launch ceremony yesterday.
Guests included Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Agriculture and Agro-based Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.
Ahmad Shabery said the Government wanted to use Sabri’s story as a means of promoting kelulut honey, which it intends to market internationally as a Malaysian product.
There are about 1,200 farmers harvesting 60,000 kelulut hives nationwide since 2012.
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) has classified the honey as a superfood, saying that it contains nearly 10 times the amount of antioxidants than regular honey.
Malaysia produces about 120,000kg of kelulut honey annually with over RM200mil in revenue, and Ahmad Shabery said the ministry wanted to double those numbers by 2020.
“We want Sabri to be a testimony of the benefits of kelulut honey. We want to have a big promotion for this product and we may come up with a national product for the honey like New Zealand’s Manuka honey, with its own standard bottling, packaging and contents,” he said.
He added that Malaysia was also lobbying for kelulut honey to be recognised as a superfood by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Mardi director-general Datuk Dr Sharif Haron said the agency was developing a standard quality benchmark for the honey by June next year, denoting what food source the bees should be given, and the nutrients and colouring of the honey.
One of the bigger challenges, Dr Sharif said, was marketing the honey to Malaysians.
A kilogram of kelulut honey can cost up to RM200.
“It is going to be a premium product, not like other honey. It is something you only consume a few tablespoons a day.
“I think putting it as a superfood and a premium product will make it acceptable,” Dr Sharif said.
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