KUCHING: Agrobank and Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) yesterday forged a strategic partnership to offer financial assistance to over 30,000 pepper smallholders in the country.
Signing the agreement on behalf of Agrobank was its chief executive officer Masaat Awadz while MPB was represented by director-general Dr Harry Entebang.
Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur witnessed the signing held in conjunction with the Sarawak Financial Carnival at CityONE Megamall here.
It is understood that Agrobank will set aside an initial fund of RM50,000 for some 10,000 active pepper smallholders under the initiative, which should commence Jan next year.
It is said that the fund amount will be reviewed as the need arises.
Prior to the signing ceremony, Agrobank chairman Tan Sri Mohamad Zabidi Zainal said the strategic partnership was the first of its kind between the bank and the board.
Pointing out that pepper represented a vital export commodity for Malaysia, he said the collaboration would help ensure sustainable plantation and export of pepper.
He added that the strategic partnership was for the mutual benefits of all.
“We are willing to collaborate with MPB to help pepper smallholders so as to expand pepper plantations in the country.”
According to him, over 30,000 pepper smallholders who are expected to benefit from the collaboration are individuals who have registered with MPB.
He noted that the total number of smallholders registered with MPB had reduced over time.
“At its prime, the number of smallholders registered with MPB was some 60,000. We are seeing a big gap now probably due to some financial issues.
“Some smallholders may not have the financial means to continue. As such, Agrobank is now coming in to offer assistance to smallholders,” said Zabidi.
He stressed that Agrobank aspired to be the facilitator to not just pepper smallholders but all farmers and livestock breeders because it was set up by the government to uplift the socio-economic status of farmers and livestock breeders across the country.
In his address, Datu Nasrun lauded Agrobank for the initiative that was in line with the government’s commitment to reach out to smallholders.
He believed that the collaboration would to a certain extent enhance the quality of black pepper in Malaysia for export.