Tree rehabilitation programme to help farmers meet durian export demand

Uggah (centre) posing for a photo op holding a durian with Assistant Minister of Native Land Development Datuk Roland Sagah (second right) and Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd director Chong Yie Loong (left).

KUCHING, March 21: Small-time farmers with durian trees now have the opportunity to earn more income from their trees as the state government through the state’s Agriculture Department and Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd is carrying out an adoption or rehabilitation programme for existing durian trees.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said although an aerial survey with drones revealed that there were about 18,000 durian trees between Kuching and Serian, the supply of durian fruit is not enough to meet market demand.

Thus, to penetrate deeper into the market, the state government in November 2017 signed an MoU with Johor-based Top Fruits Sdn Bhd to help Sarawak and small-time durian farmers to deal with the supply shortage by rehabilitating existing durian trees to be more productive and to produce high quality fruits in the coming seasons, he said.

Speaking after launching Sarawak’s first shipment comprising 10 tonnes of durian paste to China this morning near Batu Kitang here, Uggah, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, said the rehabilitation programme is already being implemented, focusing on the state’s agricultural stations in Semenggoh here, Layar in Betong and Kabuloh in Miri.

Uggah (second right) and Top Fruits (Sarawak) director Chong Yie Loong (left) give their thumbs-up after carrying out the launching gimmick for Sarawak’s first batch of 10 tonnes of durian paste to be shipped to China.

Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd is also in the process of renovating the Tarat Individual Quick Freeze (IQF) plant to turn it into the company’s main collecting, processing and packaging centre. which is expected to be completed towards the end of this year.

These stations, he said, were being managed by Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, and are to become demonstration plots showcasing the various technologies the company employ in durian farming.

“We have many matured durian trees in Sarawak — some fruiting, some not — as our Agriculture Department also has discovered some 18,000 trees between Kuching and Serian, and I think there are many more in other areas.

“Our areas of focus for now are our own agriculture stations. Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd and our Agriculture Department have been to Kebuloh and planted some 600 durian trees there; Betong about 300, Semenggoh about 300 and Tarat about 200. They have not been to Sungai Paoh (Sarikei) and Sri Aman yet (proposed future stations),” said Uggah.

He added Sarawak has much potential for this project, not only because of its massive land mass but also the many farmers that have yet to unlock the full potential of their existing durian trees.

Uggah (second right) observes the process of how durian paste is packed as Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd director Chong Yie Loong (left) explains.

“The potential is great, hence why we want to focus on our agriculture stations to be role models for our farmers. At the same time we are also adopting a number of farmers within the Serian District, Limbang and Betong (for the rehabilitation programme).

“We hope what we are doing now will show results by the end of the year. Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd this year managed to process 80 tonnes of fresh durian fruit into 16 tonnes of durian paste. So they project by the end of this year to get 300 tonnes of fresh fruit.

“We (state government) are very happy to see this progress and we hope that not only will our durian enter the China market but also our pineapple and coconut, for which we are now also looking into developing supply chains,” said Uggah.

He hoped that once the project is fully up and running, it would transform the state’s agriculture sector and at the same time help the rural farmers to be able to earn high income by the year 2030. — DayakDaily