Successful strawberry farm new milestone for Ba Kelalan

A THRIVING strawberry farm in Kampung Buduk Nur, marks a new milestone for agriculture in the Ba Kelalan highlands.

The Lun Bawang area known for apples and Adan or Bario rice, can now add strawberries to its list of produce.

Purait Gatum, 47, went to Indonesia to learn about the fruit and how to plant it before starting with just three plants in 2015.

“It has always been my passion in gardening – it is a hobby,” he said.

Although he managed to produce tiny fruits initially, he soon found most of his plants dying due to disease during a rough first year.

Despite the initial challenges, Purait persisted.

“I went to Indonesia to get new seeds and came back and started all over again,” he said.

With the support of his wife and four children, Purait now has over 1,000 strawberry plants in vases.

“Weather has always been the main factor, especially when one tries to plant strawberries in a tropical climate. Luckily, Ba Kelalan is located in the highlands, where the weather is colder than other places on the island, which makes it perfect to grow strawberries,” he said.

He pointed out that as it is situated at 3,000 feet above sea level, Ba Kelalan enjoys temperatures between  19°C and 24°C.

“I use chicken manure as fertiliser for my strawberry plants. Not only does this make them organic, it makes the plants grow healthily too,” he said.

Purait’s persistence and commitment led to his first successful harvest in February.

“I was overwhelmed when I harvested my first strawberries from my own backyard. It was surreal,” he said.

Now, he harvests strawberries every two to three days.

“At first, it was only for my family’s own consumption. But now, some visitors, especially town folk who come to Ba Kelalan, would buy the fruits to bring back to their families,” he said.

Purait currently sells the strawberries at RM10 per 150g.

“I also sell some in Lawas depending on demand. Since the fruits are getting better in taste and size since February this year, I wish to market to not just the people coming to Ba Kelalan but also those outside the highlands in the near future,” he said.

“Ba Kelalan is well known not just for its rice production, known locally as Adan Rice, its salt, cold weather, warm people and beautiful scenery. But now it is also a place where strawberries are planted.”

Strawberries are also planted in the Cameron Highlands, Pahang, and Kundasang, Sabah.

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