‘Agriculture has potential to break cycle of poverty’

KUALA LUMPUR: Even though premium Sarawak foodstuff is in high demand, locals are still hesitant to pursue a career in farming, Sarawak entrepreneurs say.

Brendan Kon, founder and managing director of Kenyalang – a company that sells Sarawak-grown rice, including a fragrant variety called biris – said biris was popular some 30 to 40 years ago, but has since gone nearly extinct along with the younger generation’s disinterest to dabble in the agriculture sector.

“Over the past 15 years, this type of rice has hardly been seen in the market, and the supply has become more scarce over the years, with only one village in the interior of Sarawak still producing it,” he said.

To build a wider market, Kenyalang launched the biris rice in modern packaging to empower farmers and help them market their produce to modern society.

“We want to help farmers earn a livelihood and bring them out of the cycle of poverty and send the message out to the younger generation that the agriculture industry is another potential industry to consider,” he said.

Brendan said Sarawak produces one of the best rice in the region, especially the highland range of heirloom rice which was unadulterated and traditionally produced in a very clean and unpolluted environment.

Heirloom variety is when the original seed of the plant is replanted repeatedly throughout the years, often in small quantities.

Carus Group of Companies executive director Keelan Woon said Sarawak pepper was among the best in the world. It has a steady demand, yet, lacked in supply.

He said locals need to know that they could draw consistent income from their local produce with the help of companies that facilitate marketing.

“A lot of people don’t realise that Sarawak pepper has an incomparable aroma and flavour,” he said.

The Kenyalang Biris Rice and the Carus Creamy White Pepper products were launched yesterday at the soft launch of the Sarawak Agrofest 2022 and Nyamai Sarawak Gastronomy Festival 2022 at the LaLaport Bukit Bintang City Centre here.

Meanwhile, LKT Success Sdn Bhd partner and managing director Vivian Lau said many interesting local products were not gaining attention due to the lack of marketing and branding efforts.

“There are over 100 types of Sarawak rice, but they are not commercially used.

“Usually, when people want to buy a product, 50% of the decision depends on factors that come before the taste,” she said.

Lau, who is the exclusive distributor of biris rice and creamy white pepper, said retailers fully supported her products, and she was looking forward to introducing them to local restaurants, as well as the export market.

“As long as our products are good, I believe they will sell on their own – with a little bit of push,” she said.

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