KUCHING: Sarawak's orchids can be commercialised for the international market, says Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
The Chief Minister said the state could tap into the growing popularity of Malaysian orchids, which were now exported mainly to Japan, Europe and Australia.
He added that Sarawak could take advantage of technology to develop its floriculture industry, including focusing on research and development to produce new orchid varieties.
"With an expected increase in production, Malaysian orchids are expected to expand their market to other continents in the years to come.
"Therefore, there is huge potential for Sarawak as we continue to improve on research and development, product innovation and commercialisation to meet the rising expectations of discerning customers," Abang Johari said at the opening of the 13th Asia Pacific Orchid Conference (APOC 13) at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching on Wednesday (July 24).
His speech was read by Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.
The conference was launched by Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud.
The Chief Minister also said Sarawak was home to over 1,000 species of orchids, including unique species such as Paphiopedilum Sanderianum and Paphiopedilum Stonei.
"Both are highly sought after by hobbyists and collectors and used in the commercial orchid hybridisation industry.
"Such rare species are part of our natural heritage that has been drawing tourists and offers great potential in tourism and research and development," he said.
Abang Johari added that the orchid conference would be a platform for international collaboration in orchid research and development, conservation, commercialisation and horticulture, especially in the Asia Pacific region.
He said it was also an opportunity for orchid producers, academics and enthusiasts to exchange their knowledge and encourage the discovery of new orchids from Sarawak.
Held by the APOC Trust every three years, the conference is among the largest of its kind in the world.
Kuching is the first Malaysian city to host the conference after winning the bid during the 11th APOC in Okinawa, Japan, in 2013.