Protect the ‘Sarawak Pepper’ brand so that farmers plant pepper, not palm oil, says Chong

Pepper. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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By Ling Hui

KUCHING, May 25: The geographical indication (GI), or intellectual property, of ‘Sarawak Pepper’ must be protected so that its former glory as one of the State’s highly-traded commodities can be restored.

Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (PH-DAP) said the Sarawak government’s loose enforcement on the ‘Sarawak Pepper’ brand has led to product tampering, which affects the reputation and quality of pepper products distinguishably from Sarawak.

“The issue is that there is very lackluster enforcement on this intellectual property, so much so that a lot of our Sarawak Pepper is mixed with pepper from other countries and labelled as Sarawak Pepper,” he said.

When ‘Sarawak Pepper’ has a certain reputation, he said, Sarawak can command higher selling prices in the global market, which will eventually increase the income of local farmers and attract more private companies in Sarawak to go into pepper planting, rather than shifting to palm oil.

“In order to encourage farmers to go into pepper planting, which was in fact one of Sarawak’s fortes in the past, is there any plan from the Sarawak government to enforce this GI of ‘Sarawak Pepper’?

“So that we can protect our products, and so that we can command much higher prices (for ‘Sarawak Pepper’) internationally,” said Chong, interrupting the ministerial winding-up speech by Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting today.

Chong was of an opposing opinion to one of Dr Rundi’s statements that many farmers in Sarawak are shifting from planting cocoa, rubber and pepper to cultivating oil palm trees due to the consistent demand and lucrative price of palm oil.

In response to Chong, Dr Rundi said the Sarawak Pepper Board would consider Chong’s proposal and discuss the issue further. — DayakDaily