Sabah govt has no plans to cultivate guarana plant in Sabah, says Kitingan

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has no plans to develop the "dangerous" guarana plant in Sabah and the public is advised to stay away from any scheme that allegedly promotes the plant.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said the guarana, which is native to South America, is classified as a dangerous plant due to its vulnerability to the fungal disease known as South America Leaf Blight (SALB).

“Any new agriculture product to be introduced in Sabah must go through the research, development and commercialisation processes first. The guarana has not undergone any of the processes,” he said in a statement here Saturday (Jan 8).

SALB is the most destructive disease of plants, which is presently confined mainly to South America and the Caribbean Islands.

The disease has damaged a large portion of the rubber industry in South America and Central America, and Sabah, which has 195,000 hectares of rubber plantation, could not afford to risk the disease crippling its rubber industry, he said.

Kitingan, who is also the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, said as a component of Malaysia's National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO), Sabah has the responsibility to safeguard the sensitivity and interests of neighbouring South-East Asian countries, where rubber is the main crop.

Any importation of high-risk plants like guarana must go through stringent screening procedures to protect existing industries in the region.

Kitingan said this in response to a WhatsApp message announcing the second phase distribution of guarana seeds to some 20 people in Keningau.

Each of the guarana trees is sold at RM50 and must be paid within three days before the expected distribution day on Jan 31, 2022.

“The Agriculture Department has never given permission for guarana to be imported by anyone. The Brazilian government, through its Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Food Supply, has also informed other countries that it does not allow the export of guarana seeds or fruits.

“Therefore, I would urge the public not to entertain any company that offers to cultivate guarana in Sabah on their lands,” he added.

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