Sarawak tells state Agriculture Dept to find spots for fruit cultivation

A fruit vendor sells pineapples for the Chinese New Year celebrations in Ipoh February 10, 2018. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
A fruit vendor sells pineapples for the Chinese New Year celebrations in Ipoh February 10, 2018. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUCHING, Dec 3 — The state Department of Agriculture (DoA) has been directed to identify 100,000 hectares of suitable land each for durian, coconut, pineapple and banana cultivation by 2030, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said today.

“Therefore, you need to adopt and adapt the latest technologies and tools to carry out your survey work,” he said in his speech at the Agriculture Research Officers’ Progress Meeting.

His text of speech was read by his assistant minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Ismail.

Uggah stressed that it is crucial for researchers from the DoA’s soil management branch to generate information on soil suitability and availability and the existing land use and hectarage of each crop of economic importance.

He added this data was required for planning purposes for agriculture development in the state.

Uggah said he is grateful that the branch has done a semi-detailed soil survey to update the soil database in Bau, Padawan, Sibu and Sarikei covering an area of almost 45,000 hectares.

On the planting of durians, coconuts, pineapples and bananas, he said a huge amount of agro-based waste will be generated by these crops.

“I am glad that the department’s researchers have taken the challenge by researching the conversion of agro-waste into useful by-products,” Uggah said, noting they have come up with durian husk and banana pseudostem composts that can be used as bio-fertilisers or soil enhancers.

The minister said he wants the department to transfer the technology generated to the relevant stakeholders.

Uggah, who is also the second minister of finance, also asked the DoA to conduct more research and development, by adopting ICT and digital technology, on pests and diseases that afflict crops deemed important to Sarawak.

DoA director Dr Alvin Chai Kuet Lian, in his speech, said he wants research officers to look into “applied research”, focusing on solving the problems and challenges faced by the farmers, agropreneurs and other stakeholders.

He said their approaches and research programmes should be, among others, to adopt and adapt existing technologies and research findings, outsource some aspects of research activities, such as lab analysis services, and to translate research findings into action, which will benefit the farming community, and to work closely with other DoA divisions and branches.

Chai said the DoA is in the process of setting up Regional Research Centres (RRCs) in Betong for the southern region, in Sibu for the central region and in Miri for the northern region.

He said the RRCs’ main function is to transfer appropriate crop production technologies to the stakeholders.

The three-day AROPM was attended by 198 research and agriculture officers from Sarawak’s DoA and two from Sabah’s DoA.

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