SERIAN: A sum of RM18 million has been set aside this year to further develop and strengthen Sarawak’s durian industry.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said this is part of the government’s crop diversification programme.
“We want to avoid a situation where our farmers continue to just depend on oil palm, or pepper, or rubber alone as these commodities are often subject to price fluctuations in the market.
“When the price drops, they will be negatively impacted. We want them to continue to enjoy good income from their endeavours and from their crops by diversifying,” he said when closing a basic Musang King durian planting course at Kampung Pichin community hall here on Thursday.
Uggah said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg wanted farmers to diversify by growing Musang King durian, pineapples, bananas, or coconuts, which have very good demand.
“They should not fear not having the market for any bountiful season as we will look for the market for them.
“The Agriculture Department will collaborate with the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (Fama) and some anchor companies on this,” he said.
The Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development said through anchor company Top Fruit Sdn Bhd, Sarawak successfully exported 30 tonnes of durian paste to China last year and 100 tonnes so far this year.
“There is still great demand from China for our durian. We are now going into the Musang King variety because of its great popularity, and very good market price,” he said.
He added the company has markets in seven countries for Musang King and processing plants internationally certified by these countries, including China.
“On the other hand, Fama has 31 processing centres which are also internationally certified,” he said.
Uggah added the Sarawak government is in the process of refurbishing the Agriculture Department’s property in Tarat as a collecting, processing, and packaging centre (CPPC) at a cost of RM1.8 million.
“Then we can process durian and other seasonal fruits there when it is ready within this year,” he said.
He commended Fama for setting up an RM600,000 CPPC for durian in Kota Samarahan and the proposal by durian farmers to set up an association to represent them.
“I welcome this move. Let us all work together in this industry. I would also like our farmers to continue to take good care of their durian trees to ensure good harvest come the season again.
“Let us try to produce premium fruits so that we can compete against other agricultural products exporting countries in the region like Thailand, Vietnam, or Indonesia,” he said.
On the course, he called on Fama to hold it in other areas across Sarawak as well. Some 600 local farmers took part in the course.