DALAT, March 30: The Ministry of Agriculture Modernisation, Native Land and Regional Development is considering setting up a board to “regulate, enhance and strengthen” the development of the sago industry in the state.
Its minister, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, said a special task force to be created to look after the development of the industry would meet in Kuching next week.
“The proposed Sarawak Sago Board is a good idea. We will discuss its formation there,” he said during a meeting with sago smallholders at the Sungai Talau Craun Research Centre (sago) station today.
Uggah said the government acknowledged the increasingly important contribution by sago to the economy.
“For instance, in 2017, Sarawak exported RM86.8 million worth of the commodity. In 2000, the export worth was at RM24.2 million, and in 2010, it went up to RM62.8 million,” he said, adding that it was projected to increase value to RM100 million by 2030.
“I will chair this meeting together with Minister of Welfare, Community Well-being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah.
“We will study the various grievances of the smallholders and the industry with a view to resolving them,“ Uggah said.
He pointed out that one of the issues to be looked into was how to transport the harvested trunk to mills in the absence of roads or canals.
Uggah also announced an allocation of RM11 million to develop the industry this year.
He gave assurance that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government would find ways and means to resolve, particularly, land-related issues to transform the rural areas through modern agriculture.
Mukah Division is the state’s largest producer of sago, where 40,642 hectares had been planted out of Sarawak total area of 46,768 hectares under the crop.
Meanwhile, Uggah advised the smallholders to diversify their economic activities, such as by planting pineapple and bananas, to earn more income.
On marketing, he said they could turn to their farmer’s association for assistance, which could sell them to the ministry’s anchor companies.
He added that he had recently told the Agriculture Department to come up with products utilising local fruits that would be in great abundance come their fruiting season.
In this way, the farmers could earn income by collecting and selling these fruits instead of leaving them to the birds and bats.
At the function, Uggah also urged Craun Research Centre to do more research on sago, like coming up with new by-products and shortening its maturity period from the current 10 years to three years.
Dalat Sago Smallholders Association chairman Pon Akie, in his speech, requested Uggah to help get titles to their land that had been promised to some of the owners 37 years ago.
He also wanted the government to consider their request for the formation of the Sarawak Sago Board.
Fatimah, who is also Dalat assemblywoman, Agriculture Department acting director Dr Alvin Chai and Craun Research Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Zaidell Hussaini were among those present at the meeting. — DayakDaily