Sunday, September 19

A good insight into local cottage industry, agriculture

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BINTULU: After filing our stories in Miri, we only had half an hour for a quick dinner before piling back into the Isuzu for the two and a half hour drive to Bintulu in the drizzling rain.

Reaching the town just after 11pm, we managed to find a rather nice service apartment within our budget. After being on the road for nearly three weeks, the team finally got the chance to share a common living space. It was nice to be able to chill out in the dining area over a late-night supper of coffee and instant noodles-in-cup.

Yesterday was a big day for Bintulu as it proudly hosted the state’s annual Farmers, Breeders and Fishermen’s Day at the old Bintulu airport.

More than 10,000 people are expected to visit the four-day event that runs from March 11 to 14. Approximately 185 exhibitors are taking part, representing various government agencies, corporate bodies, trade associations and small businesses from as far as Kuching all the way to Lawas.

One of the most popular stops for visitors was the Sarawak Kitchen food court that featured stalls selling a wide range of traditional food as well as more contemporary fare.

Among the many stalls that caught our eye was the one set up by PPES Ternak Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of SEDC, selling burgers with patties made from ostrich meat. Out of curiosity, we bought an ostrich burger to try.

The ostrich meat patty had the appearance and consistency of a beef patty, and also quite similar in taste.

SEDC’s Divisional director of Corporate Relations Edwin Abit told the BAT team that this year was going to be quite busy for PPES Ternak as they had already taken part in nine exhibitions this year, as compared to ten exhibitions for the whole of last year.

For the exhibition at Bintulu, they brought their own livestock including cows, goats, deer, ostriches and even a horse.

The logistics of getting these livestock from the farms to the various exhibitions all over the state and back again as well taking care of the animals while on the road is a big undertaking.

However, Edwin said that they are quite prepared as they are used to participating in these exhibitions, sometimes only having a week’s advance notice.

An event such as this offers visitors a rare opportunity to learn about the present and future direction of agriculture in the state. The spirit of entrepreneurship made its presence strongly felt as evidenced by the innovative products on display by various government bodies and cottage industry players, such as midin kimchi, keropok made from dabai, and soap made from goat’s milk.

On closer inspection, this exhibition also allows one to gain deeper insights into the lifestyles and socio-economic circumstances of the farmers, breeders, fishermen and other smallholders who represent the heart of Sarawak’s agriculture.

Modern farming methods and machinery have always been mentioned in terms of developing the agricultural sector in Sarawak to its fullest potential.

However, during our almost three-week journey through the state, we saw little evidence that smallholders have adapted these methods and equipment into their farming practices, especially rice farmers. Countries such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are showing the way that local farmers and smallholders can profit from modern technology.

It would be good to see it happen here too as many people still associate smallholders with the heart of the local agriculture.

By the way, a reminder to readers who are thinking of visiting the Borneo Post office in Bintulu: please double check that you are ascending the correct staircase.

We were told that a few individuals searching for the office had mistakenly walked through the doors of a lodging house for promiscuous women with a questionable career choice, thanks to an outdated sign that has yet to be taken down.