Johor experts invited to help Sabah develop fruit industry

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Frankie Liew (first left) and Lawrence Ting (third left) visited the durian processing plant.

KOTA KINABALU (Sept 18): Sabah’s fruit and agriculture development is expected to receive a boost with the help of experts from Johor.

Sabah China Chamber of Commerce (SCCC) has invited Johor farming experts and leaders to provide assistance to Sabah in the development of the fruit and agriculture sectors.

“We are pleased that they are seriously considering it,” said SCCC president Datuk Frankie Liew who led a fact-finding mission to several big fruit farms in Johor from September 6 to 8.

Liew emphasized the need for Sabah to establish a complete industry chain encompassing production, processing and sales to tap into larger domestic and international markets, improve product quality, and strengthen competitive advantage. Accompanying Liew were SCCC deputy president Brett Chua and director of public relations Datuk Simon Teoh.

“During the visit, they met Alvins Lo, president of Persatuan Pekebun Buah-Buahan Negeri Johor and acting president of The Federation of Malaysia Fruit Farmers Association; Hong Jok Hon, honorary advisor of Malaysia Fruit Farmers Association, Johor; Fruit Farmers Association secretary Melvin Long; chairman of Johor Fruit Farmers’ Youth Group, Koven Lo; Dawang Food Industries Sdn Bhd managing director Chris Low; and Long Teng Resource Sdn Bhd chairman Dato’ Koh Kim Toon.

Liew expressed his gratitude for the meticulous arrangements made by Malaysian Fruit Farmers’ Association president Dato’ Lawrence Ting during this trip, as well as the guidance and hospitality provided by prominent figures in the Johor fruit farming industry, which greatly enriched their knowledge and broadened their horizons.

Lawrence believes that if Sabah is to develop fruit cultivation on a large scale in the future, it must focus on food processing technology to stabilize market prices.

The group’s first visit was the durian processing plant of Dawang Food Industries Sdn Bhd, where they were briefed on the latest durian rapid freezing and processing technologies.

It is worth noting that Dawang’s durian products are not only sold domestically but are primarily exported to the Chinese market.

The delegation also visited the fresh fruit processing facility of Kia Shing Importers & Exporters Sdn Bhd and Kia Shing Foodtec Sdn Bhd, which specialize in products for the Singaporean and local markets.

They gained insights into the processing procedures for fruits such as banana, dragon fruit and guava.

During the trip, the group also visited fruit orchards owned by Hong Jok Hon, a local industry leader.

Hong’s fruit orchards cover a vast area of 2,000 acres and cultivate 14 different types of fruits, including durian, papaya, passion fruit, orange, calamondin, dragon fruit, lemon and guava.

Liew said that Hong’s fruit sales accounted for 40 per cent of the supply in the Singaporean fruit market.

“Fruits are now being harvested daily, and their quality is exceptional. In addition to exporting calamondins and orange juice to China, they have also entered the Middle Eastern market. Despite achieving such remarkable success, Hong continues to strive for improvement, investing millions of ringgit in the construction of a durian processing and rapid freezing facility covering nearly an acre,” he said.

Liew invited Hong to visit Sabah, share his valuable experiences, and contribute to the growth of the state’s fruit farming and economy.

He expressed hope that by learning from their partners in Johor, Sabah and Johor could explore and seize opportunities for cooperation in agriculture, jointly developing more business prospects.

“We, Sabah fruit farmers must expand production and earn foreign exchange through exports, which requires stable output and the ability to process products, opening up the export market. This is something we can learn from our partners in Johor,” he emphasised.