ASAJAYA: Empurau breeder Bill Lu Thian Tack is working on exporting the king of Sarawak’s river fish to China.
He knows there is lucrative potential in the country’s 1.3 billion population for him to market empurau, which he has specialised in since 2007.
The current market price for 1kg of live Sarawak empurau is up to RM600 with some adult fish weighing over 2kg.
At present, the LTT Aquaculture Sdn Bhd managing director, sells the fish within the state and to Kuala Lumpur as well as Penang using specially made tanks, which allow the fish to be transported and sold live.
According to Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang — who brought reporters to visit Lu’s farm at Sungai Subi, Jalan Asajaya yesterday — the entrepreneur’s success is due to his trust in the fish supplied by the government’s Tarat Agriculture Research Station.
“The juvenile fish were provided by Tarat Agricul-ture Research Station. Then he keeps the fish in nursery ponds before moving them to tanks, then bigger tanks, then to the ordinary earth ponds for growing purpose before transferring the fish to ‘conditioning’ tanks complete with the proper filtration system and ultraviolet light and oxygen.
“Lu must make sure that the fish would not get infected by bacteria, otherwise they will become retarded. That means money is gone,” said Jabu, who is also a Deputy Chief Minister.
He has invested around RM4 million to successfully breed up to 10,000 fish with 1,600 adult empurau sold thus far.
His 30-acre farm has several fish ponds and 64 cement fish tanks, which he made by combining a Japa-nese style of tank-making and an English filtration system.
Lu called the fish ‘formulated’ fish due to a special technique of breeding and feeding involving — among others — Vitamin C, engkabang, cuttlefish oil and fish oil. Jabu described Lu, a former hospital equipment salesman, as having the kind of patience, perseverance and total commitment needed to ensure success in business.
“An entrepreneur in the industry must have sus-taining power for at least three years to determine if he could continue further. He must be patient especially during the gestation period,” he said.
He also acknowledged others in the state rearing empurau for commercial production, especially those who have adopted the Tagang river system in rural areas.
Jabu called on Lu to provide selected govern-ment agriculture research stations with good empurau for breeding purposes as well as research and development and added that he would seek more allocation to develop the industry.
He could not specify the amount of funds required but said he would leave it to the federal government to decide on a suitable sum for the industry’s development.
Jabu, who is also Layar assemblyman, added that successful entrepreneurs like Lu had proven to critics that the government’s efforts to research and develop empurau were not a waste of money.
He said some quarters criticised him for wasting taxpayers’ money whenever he travelled by helicopter or on land to look for the best empurau throughout Sarawak and encouraging rural folk to breed empurau.
“Sometimes I have heard them saying that I went for picnics ever since I was involved in the programme in 1988 to look for empurau fish fry and got involved in research and development on breeding techniques. But now we have entrepreneurs like Lu to prove our critics wrong,” he said.
Among those present during the visit to Lu’s farm were LTT Aquaculture Sdn Bhd sales director John Nain, state Agriculture Department Tarat Agriculture Station controller Awang Alim Awang Kasim and Inland Fisheries Division senior assistant director Boniface Anat Litis.
LTT Aquaculture Sdn Bhd is now known as the Empurau — King of Sarawak Rivers specialised supplier.