Solution found to turn surplus local fruits into money

Uggah (front row, fifth from left) at the mini-exhibition on processed food at the DUN complex. Also seen are (front row, fourth from left) Chai, Martin, Ik Pahon and Adrian.

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KUCHING, May 2: The Agriculture Department now has a programme to buy surplus fresh local fruits from farmers during the fruiting season to be processed into snacks for export.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said without such an initiative in place, surplus local fruits were wasted.

“We have a lot of grouses from farmers who could not derive any income with any bountiful harvest. Thus, with this programme, we are there to help them,” he told reporters today on the sidelines of the ongoing State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting.

Uggah, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, said the department’s agro-based industry section would also help interested farmers to do the processing themselves.

“We will provide the courses, training, basic machines and some start-up funding.

“However, whatever we produce must meet the relevant food standard requirement of the export markets. This is very important,” he said, before stressing on the need to have high-quality packaging, too.

Uggah said he was confident that when all these requirements were adhered to, Sarawak could compete or even outdo exporting countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

He said those from the private sector who are interested in this venture could talk to his ministry.

“They can apply for the Agriculture Venture Capital Fund to start up with,” he pointed out.

Uggah said the whole idea fitted very well with the state’s plan to be a net exporter of food and food products by 2030.

Meanwhile, Uggah was shown a number of processed local food, including dehydrated sour eggplant (terong asam), dehydrated Golden Guava, natural crispy ginger stick, crispy bitter gourd, sago pellet snacks and the ‘tebaloi’ or sago biscuit.

Present were Kedup assemblyman Martin Micheal Ben, Permanent Secretary to his Ministry Datuk Ik Pahon, Agriculture Department director Dr Alvin Chai, Sarawak Veterinary Services director Dr Adrian Susin and political secretary to the Chief Minister, Dr Richard Rapu. — DayakDaily