Protecting state’s rice brand names

KUCHING: Sarawak’s ‘Beras Bajong’ and ‘Beras Biris’ are expected to receive the Geographical Indications (GI) Certificate of Registration from the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) in April next year.

QUALITY ASSURED: Director of Agriculture Department Paul Vincent (second right) presents the Geographical Indications (GI) Certificate of Registration for ‘Bario Rice’ to Dr Chan as others look on.

QUALITY ASSURED: Director of Agriculture Department Paul Vincent (second right) presents the Geographical Indications (GI) Certificate of Registration for ‘Bario Rice’ to Dr Chan as others look on.

With the certification, the brand names of local rice, like ‘Barion Rice’, will be protected and therefore cannot be used on similar rice grown outside the state.

‘Bario Rice’ is among the first six products granted the GI certification across the country in April this year.

The other products are Sarawak Pepper, Sabah Tea, Tenom Coffee, Borneo Virgin Coconut Oil and Sabah Seaweed.

Recently, ‘Buah Limau Bali’ was added to the list.

‘Beras Bajong’ is a fragrant rice variety planted by the traditional rice farmers of Lubok Nibong in Betong.

It is a traditional tall variety that is photoperiod sensitive and only a single crop can be planted in a year.

‘Beras Biris’ originates from the rice farms of Simunjan in Samarahan Division.

It is a fragrant traditional rice variety and was known as ‘Beras Wangi Simunjan’ in view of its strong aroma.

Speaking at a press conference here yesterday, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan said GI protection would provide entrepreneurs and consumers the assurance of authenticity and consistent product quality.

‘Beras Bajong’ and ‘Beras Biris’ were two very promising rice varieties, he said, adding that the Department of Agriculture would concentrate on certification of rice and later expand to vegetables and fruits.

Dr Chan, who is Modernisation of Agriculture Minister, pointed out that GI protection would boost the country’s image and the location’s visibility via ‘GI tourism’ such as promoting GI location as a tourist destination.

“GI protection will add value to products and effectively increase farmers’ income and inadvertently create greater demands for our exotic rice varieties at home and abroad,” he said.

He thus asserted that farmers in the state had to be well trained to not only maintain product quality, but also to increase production of various products.

For the time being, he said export of ‘Bario Rice’ was still at the planning stage, adding that the authorities would go all out to integrate the existing facilities and personnel (farmers) to hike up production to meet the demand.

“After we have integrated our farmers and other things, then we will talk about export. At the moment, there is no volume of production and we do not have enough to sell,” he added.

He was, however, confident that the state would be able to double the production of ‘Bario Rice’ following enhanced planting techniques and irrigation system.

To date, the state produces 480 metric tonnes of ‘Bario Rice’ per annum.

Originating from the Kelabit Highlands, ‘Bario Rice’ is known for its soft and slightly sticky texture, fine grains and gastronomical experience.

It is sold for RM10 per kg.

Dr Chan said there was a plan to turn ‘Bario Rice’ into an organic product.

While assuring that the certification would not cause any hike in the price of the product, he said the price would be reviewed once it became an organic product.

‘Bario Rice’ is famous for its excellent taste and texture.  It is unique for it is homegrown, hand selected and harvested to ensure its excellent taste and quality.

It has also earned a name and is regarded as one of the finest rice grains in the world.

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