Abang Johari wants UPM’s proposed Sarawak Agrihub to focus on paddy, nipah, sago, coconut

Abang Johari arrives at the UPMKB today (Dec 10, 2021). Photo: Forest Department Sarawak

By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, Dec 10: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg has agreed in principle to the proposed establishment of Sarawak Agrihub at Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus (UPMKB).

In doing so, he requested the university to undertake research on paddy, nipah and sago, and coconut, which he believed has the potential for commercialisation and export and thus, contribute to the State’s economy.

“If you are able to do the research on these crops, you can submit a proposal to Deputy State Secretary (Socio-Economic Transformation) Dato Sri Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki on the cost implication in terms of (setting up) a research laboratory because this is part of our investment for the future,” he said.

He said this when speaking during his work visit to UPMKB in Bintulu which was broadcast live on Sarawak Public Communications Unit’s (Ukas) Facebook page today.

Abang Johari said the State government has already planned to develop a few thousand hectares of land in Sri Aman for paddy farming with a target of three harvests per year.

“I was made to understand that Beras Corporation Sdn Bhd (Bernas) in collaboration with other agencies have identified certain new technology to produce this paddy and therefore, the State government wants to turn the Batang Lupar area into another paddy growing area and become a small Kedah under the Sri Aman Development Agency (Sada).

“In terms of food security particularly staple food, we will be able to provide for our own stock pile and at the same time, sell the surplus produce to Singapore,” he said.

Abang Johari also mentioned that the State Cabinet has agreed to form the Nipah and Sago Industrial Board (Linas) which would oversee the development of the nipah and sago industry.

He said nipah or mangrove palm was available in abundance in forests from Mukah to Kuching as well as from Lawas to Limbang.

“Apart from its (mangrove) function to protect the land from erosion, it also has economic value because of gula apong (nipah palm sugar) – a type of sugar that comes from the nipah palm tree.

“I have requested Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (Centexs) and Huawei Technologies (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd to develop a new method to extract the nipah sap more easily instead of making a cut on the flower bud of the nipah palm tree,” he elaborated.

Additionally, he said Kuching-based Kit Hin Company Sdn Bhd has secured a lucrative three-year deal to export gula apong to Singapore through Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office Singapore (Statos).

Apart from that, the State government has also provided RM10 million for a pilot project in Kampung Teh, Mukah which involves distribution of methane gas produced from sago as an alternative source of cooking gas to local households.

Abang Johari also said the State government is currently constructing coastal bunds from Sebuyau, Kampung Sebangan up to Tambirat which involves a cost of RM630 million to resolve the long-standing problem of saltwater intrusion into the areas.

Upon completion of the coastal bunds, he suggested UPM conduct a study on planting a new species of coconut along the coastal areas.

“If we are able to develop these three crops, by end of 2022 when I get the result from your (UPM) research, I wish to transform all the areas involved including Gedong.

“I must declare interest here because I want to develop Gedong, Simunjan, Asajaya, Sadong Jaya, Sebuyau up to Lingga. This is the coastal belt that has the agricultural potential including highland areas,” he emphasised. – DayakDaily