Covid-19: Sabah to export vegetables to neighbouring Brunei to address glut

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that there was an oversupply of vegetables and fish in the state which could be sent to Brunei. — Picture courtesy of the Sabah Chief Minister’s Dept
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that there was an oversupply of vegetables and fish in the state which could be sent to Brunei. — Picture courtesy of the Sabah Chief Minister’s Dept

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KOTA KINABALU, April 20 ― Sabah is looking to export its vegetables to neighbouring Brunei to manage the glut under the movement control order (MCO).

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that there was an oversupply of vegetables and fish in the state which could be sent to Brunei.

“Brunei has communicated with us and they are facing a shortage of fish and vegetables there. I’ve spoken to Wisma Putra and told them that rather than leave the produce to waste, we should send it over to them and help them,” he said during the question and answer session at the State Assembly sitting today.

He said that he was aware of the imbalance of demand and supply for perishable goods in the market due to the MCO and his ministry had taken various steps to address it.

“We are trying to channel the excess supply from Kundasang and Ranau to places which need it. I have asked the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry to engage with supermarkets and hypermarkets. We will reach places which need it,” he said.

Shafie said that the challenge was to manage the supply and distribution system and address the supply and demand.

“We don’t want to encourage them to keep planting at the same rate, whether it be for domestic use or export. We know they will be affected by the lack of income so we will offer some aid.

“When the restriction is lifted, we will again offer loans with zero interests to encourage them to start planting again. But for now there is a glut,” he said.

The Senallang state assemblyman said that to address the current glut, they would also try to cut down on middlemen and find agencies to move the supply to retailers which have a lot of access.

“They can list down what they want, and we will have the data and link them. We need to have this data and a clear distribution system. We can’t have trucks and lorries having tonnes of vegetables moving around when we are in this lockdown and trying to reduce mobility,” he said.

There has been a slew of reports of tonnes of vegetables going to waste or being given away for free as consumer buying decreased because of the MCO.

Sabah Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Junz Wong said that among the measures being taken is the transportation of some 35 tonnes of vegetables like cabbages from Kundasang, three tonnes of pomelos and one tonne of watermelons from Tawau to Kuala Lumpur markets. Coconuts and bananas are also on the list to be exported to help farmers.

Shafie said the state government is due to announce a second stimulus package which will address food security in the state, as well as some other actions to be taken to help other sectors in need of help.

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