I WAS browsing through a cookery book at one of the shopping malls in Kuching when I stumbled upon a section dedicated to its main ingredient – the pineapple.
Moving further down the page, I discovered a whole list of recipes, revolving around the bromeliad plant – from the ever-popular pineapple fried rice to desserts such as pineapple tarts.
After looking at the pictures of mouth-watering pineapple treats, I started to realise this tropical plant has always been an integral part of our diet and should definitely not be taken for granted.
Later, I found out many studies suggest pineapples could reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer due to its high vitamin C content.
Pineapples are also said to slow age-related muscle degeneration, prevent asthma due to its beta carotene nutrients, lower blood pressure, and contain antioxidants to promote overall healthy complexion.
With such health-giving properties, it’s no wonder pineapples are made into jingles such as ‘Pen Pineapple Apple Pen’ and became a home for SpongeBob SquarePants.
In Sarawak, the largest pineapple cultivation area is found in Kota Samarahan with 357.95ha or 37 per cent of the total planted area across Sarawak in 2016.
Presently, 972.48ha in Sarawak are taken up by pineapple plantations, of which 826.89ha are active.
Based on the statistics provided by the Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board (LPNM), the second largest pineapple plantation in Sarawak is found in Mukah with 163.29ha, followed by Betong (116.96ha), Sarikei (50.99ha), Bintulu (43.61ha), Sibu (38.04ha), Serian (32.28ha), Kuching (16.39ha), and Kapit (7.28ha).
The local pineapple species include Moris, known locally as Nanas Sarikei or Nanas Madu, planted mainly in Kota Samarahan, Sarikei, Serian, and Betong.
The other top species is the Sarawak variety, known locally as Nanas Paun, the most common type grown in all plantations, especially in hilly areas.
Other species are N36 – Gandul and Moris Gajah – widely found in Kota Samarahan, and Sawit, known locally as Nanas Pada, which is found mainly in Mukah.
According to LPNM, the most marketable species is Moris, while Nanas Sarawak, Josapine, Sawit, and N36 are also in constant high demand.
In Peninsular Malaysia, the MD2 pineapple is now the favourite among consumers as its yellowish golden flesh is juicier, sweeter, and less acidic.
The MD2 is said to certain four times more Vitamin C and has a longer shelf life, making it ideal for export.
Based on research, the ideal soil for planting pineapples is peat, which is rich in minerals. Hillsides are also good planting areas as the soil has low acid level, said to make the pineapples sweeter.
Sarawak has very high potential to be the leader in pineapple production with its vast arable land, which is suitable for agriculture.
Sarawak covers a total land area of over 12.4 million ha, of which 13 per cent or 1.6 million ha is peat soil, which should make pineapples the choice crop for farmers to cultivate and market locally and overseas.
LPNM is extending a helping hand by giving local farmers free consultations and technical training to increase their output and income.
The recommended density to maximise returns from pineapple cultivation is around three acres.
Under LPNM’s Pineapple Plantation Aid Project, various initiatives are in place such as replanting programmes, subsidised pineapple seeds/suckers as well as consultation on fertilisers, hormones, and weed killers for prospective farmers.
Besides providing on-site assistance, LPNM also reaches out to the public by participating in various roadshows, festivals, and exhibitions.
These include the Pineapple and Fruit Festival in Sarikei, the Lundu Festival, the Malaysia Agriculture and Horticulture and Agro-tourism (Maha) Show, and National Farmers, Livestock Breeders and Fishermen Day (HPPN).