KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — A possible crisis may loom over Malaysia’s prized Musang King durians following the Pahang government’s formation of a private corporation in joint venture that threatens the livelihood of the fruit farmers, according to Tras assemblyman Chow Yu Hui.
The DAP state lawmaker argued that the state’s decision to lease and award the use of 5,357 acres of land in Raub to the recently formed Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd, a private company under its statutory body Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Negeri Pahang together with Royal Pahang Durian Group, was an unequal contract that sidelined the local durian farmers who have been working the land for decades and had helped develop and promote the durian industry.
He further argued that the unequal contract compels the local farmers to hand over their durian harvests to the company at prices lower than market rate, on top of requiring them to pay an exorbitant rent of RM6,000 per acre this year alone.
“Why is PKPP not assisting local Pahang farmers and protecting their rights?” he asked in a statement today.
He also asked why the state had to form a joint-venture with a large private corporation and a third party to develop the durian industry, suggesting instead that the Pahang government could have used its agencies to collaborate with the farmers.
Chow expressed his fear that such a move could set a precedent in which large private corporations gain an unfair advantage over local farmers, resulting in the monopoly of the Musang King durian market.
“Without self-regulation under the free market system, the price of durian is likely to skyrocket while durian vendors and durian processing plants might even shut down eventually due to a lack of competition, as well as the increased difficulty in collecting durians.
“Additionally, in order to collect the unreasonable amount of durian as stipulated in the unequal contract, farmers might eventually be forced to plant low-quality durian trees that could produce a larger amount of harvest,” he said.
He said if his concerns played out, Malaysia could lose its reputation as the top Musang King producer in the world.
It is understood the acres in Raub under the awarded contract cover Sang Lee, Sungai Chetang, Tras, Sungai Ruan and Sungai Klau, for a period of 30 plus 30 years.
Chow said the state government should have prioritised awarding contracts to the local farmers and made use of their collective years of experience in producing quality fruits and established logistics network for the export market.
He claimed many local farmers had been applying to the state government for land rights but were repeatedly rejected, which led to their current quandary of being regarded as using the land illegally.
“The scheme of renting the land to a huge private corporation precisely and clearly proved the fact that illegal farms can actually be legalised.
“However, it appears that the state government favoured a large private corporation over the farmers who have been giving immense contributions to the local economy and that of the country’s,” he said.
Chow urged the affected farmers to unite and reject the unequal contract offered despite the looming August 9 deadline given by Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail.
“DAP is ready to provide any forms of assistance to protect the farmers from exploitation,” he added.