KUCHING: More research must be made on the ‘kepayang’ to increase its commercial value, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu.
He said a recent analysis by experts shows that kepayang — a delicacy among the Ibans — contains several properties including folic acid which are ‘heart-friendly’.
“We have a lot of natural treasures within our surroundings and in the jungles including the kepayang, which has potential for scientists and biotechnologists to work on.
“We need the services of our scientists for future development of products from kepayang, including for pharmaceutical use,” he said at the Malam Bergempuru 2014 organised by Saribas Social and Recreational Club (SSRC) at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching on Sunday.
He hoped that ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities to develop a by-product rich in antioxidants from oil palm can be extended to the kepayang to realise its potential.
The kepayang, which mostly grow wild, are naturally poisonous but the seeds are edible after careful preparation and stir fried with other ingredients.
Jabu, who is also modernisation of agriculture minister, urged young scientists especially from the Saribas Iban community to join an expedition planned by SSRC to mark its 21st anniversary next year.
He said Bukit Sadok is not just a historical site for the Saribas Ibans but is noted for its biodiversity, including a type of rafflesia.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah who spoke earlier said a series of labs would be conducted next January or March to chart the way forward for Saribas Ibans.
He said the labs would identify problems affecting the Saribas Ibans, and compile vital information such as type of occupation and academic achievement.
“We want to find out what are the occupations, how many are jobless, how many contractors, how many pensioners and so on. Just like how a doctor diagnoses a patient, we need to find out why we are left behind compared to others, and find solutions,” he said.
Uggah, who is Betong MP, shared with the audience the policy and programmes by his ministry next year including rubber production incentives to help smallholders.
He also spoke about the introduction of the B7 Biodiesel, a blend of 7 per cent palm oil and 93 per cent petroleum diesel, to boost the palm oil industry.
Around 1,400 people identifying themselves as Saribas Ibans, mainly from Betong, attended the dinner.
A total of 120 persons received the High Achiever Awards for academic achievements.
They comprised those who scored good results in public examinations and those who had completed their diplomas, degrees, Masters and PhDs.
Dato Sri Empiang Jabu, who was recently awarded the Malaysian Women of Excellence Award (for Social and Community Services), and those who received state and federal medals, were also honoured at the dinner.