Manyin challenges researchers to unearth commercial potential of indigenous crops in Sarawak

Manyin launching the two-day International Scientific Conference on Indigenous Crops 2018 in Kuching today (Oct 16). He is flanked by Dr Annuar (right) and Bujang.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Oct 16: Sarawak is keen to collaborate with universities and research institutes to study its many indigenous crops and help produce products with global demand, said its Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong.

“There are many indigenous crops in Sarawak that have yet to be coded or recorded over the years until the state set up Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), which has successfully coded over 10,000 species.

“We hope local universities, higher learning institutes and research centres can work together with SBC and the state to study our indigenous crops,” he said when opening the inaugural International Scientific Conference on Indigenous Crops 2018 here today.

His assistant minister, Dr Annuar Rapaee, was also present at the event organised by Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), Bintulu campus.

Manyin told the attendees that many indigenous crops in the state possessed medicinal value that should be researched further.

With Sarawak considered one of the biodiversity hotspots in the world, he hoped the rich bio-resources in the state could be harnessed actively and in a sustainable manner.

The state is interested to strengthen the agriculture and agro-based sectors; hence, collaboration with the private sector is important to transform the industry. Constant research could improve crop production and promoting access to better nutrition while ensuring sustainable development of the agriculture industry, particularly indigenous crops.

“This conference is a good start as we embark to discover the medicinal value and commercialisation potential of our crops. If we work together, we will be able to popularise these crops,” he said.

Researchers, he said, would need evidence to support rhetorical arguments that these crops are good to eat and have health values. This would build confidence among consumers to buy the crops and its products.

“Research thesis should not end up as merely papers. Researchers and institutes should collaborate with the state government to commercialise these crops,” Manyin said.

He cited ‘dabai’ (Canarium odontophyllum) as one of the popular indigenous crops in Sarawak with high commercial potential. Intensive research on the fruit had led to added-value findings to create products such as dabai pickles, frozen pulp, dipping sauce, seasoning paste, mayonnaise and drinks.

Manyin mentioned ‘terung asam’ or ‘terung Dayak’ (sour brinjal) as another food crop with high commercialisation potential.

Meanwhile, UPM Bintulu campus director Prof Dr Bujang Kim Huat said the conference, themed ‘Potential Indigenous Plants for Commercialisation’, aimed to highlight indigenous plants that could be grown and harvested for profit and subsistence, to provide a platform for all stakeholders to share knowledge, and to promote linkages to encourage development of indigenous crops.

“Knowledge on indigenous plants has been passed over by generations. Indigenous crops with unrealised potential contributed to human welfare, particularly for income generation of the local community, food security and nutrition.

“However, it has been commonly overlooked by the developed population and noticed as low prestige and nutritionally inferior. This is why we organise the first-ever scientific conference on indigenous plants in Sarawak,” he explained.

The two-day conference, attracting some 200 international and local participants, would touch on wild indigenous plant sources, food, domestication, production and commercialisation of indigenous crops. — DayakDaily