Betong to be transformed into ‘Musang King’ durian territory

Uggah (second from right) attending to the local folk seeking his assistance in Betong.

Editor’s note: Details of location amended in first paragraph. Any inconvenience caused is regretted.

BETONG, Oct 7: The state government aims to plant a total of 50,000 ‘Musang King’ durian trees in Bukit Saban, Saribas and Layar state seats to turn Betong into a ‘Musang King’ durian parliamentary constituency.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, RM2.5 million had been set aside for this proposed large-scale planting. For starters, about 1,000 seedlings had been distributed to farmers in Paku and Beduru areas.

Speaking to newsmen in Spaoh near here today, he said the initiative was meant to supplement the income of the local farmers, who were also planting oil palm, pepper and rubber.

“We will continue to deliver upon getting more planting materials,” he said, adding that each family would be given five seedlings. It is estimated that a properly cared for mature tree could produce around 200 fruits per season.

On picking the ‘Musang King’ variety for the programme, he said this was due to the tremendous demand from China. Last year, an anchor company here sold 16 tonnes of durian flesh to China.

“We also have many native species that have the same potential. We are still doing more research and development (R&D).

“Based on statistics from the Agriculture Department, there is an estimated 300,000 matured fruit bearing local species of durian trees in Sarawak. The R&D is developing them as a Sarawak brand,” he said.

On a related matter, Uggah, who is also the Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, said the Agriculture Department would be organising a course to rehabilitate old durian trees that are still bearing fruits in the Layar Agriculture Station this December.

It would be conducted by officers from the department and from Top Fruits Sdn Bhd — an anchor company buying durian fruits during its season.

Uggah pointed out that currently, rural dwellers generally do not maintain their durian trees.

“Their practice is to let them grow, harvest and then leave them alone until the next fruiting season. Thus, the harvest is low because of the lack of proper maintenance, including applying specific fertiliser,” he said, adding that based on studies done, properly cared for mature trees could bear around 100 fruits each season.

Uggah (wearing an orange cap) inspecting a site near a longhouse affected by soil erosion in Betong.

Uggah said the old durian tree rehabilitation course would expose the participants to the latest maintenance technology.

“We hope that with the knowledge gained, they can increase their production to generate more income,” he said.

On the problem of low price during the bumper season, Uggah said there was now an anchor company to buy the bountiful harvest in Layar.

“We plan to appoint more of such companies to buy from all over the state,” he revealed.

Uggah attributed all these growth initiatives to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s strong desire to help rural folks earn more from their land.

Meanwhile, Uggah, who was accompanied by Betong MP Robert Lawson Chuat, Betong Resident Friday Belik and representatives from various government departments and agencies, visited eight longhouses in the Bangkit Rembai areas here yesterday.

The visits were to check on the people’s welfare and listen to their grouses with a view to solve them on the spot. — DayakDaily