Monopoly over iconic Musang King will lead to collapse of durian production, claim farmers

Musang King durian farmers alleged they are being pressed into signing an exploitative contract that would require them to pay ‘rent’ of RM6,000 per acre for this year. ― Picture courtesy of Save Musang King Alliance (Samka)
Musang King durian farmers alleged they are being pressed into signing an exploitative contract that would require them to pay ‘rent’ of RM6,000 per acre for this year. ― Picture courtesy of Save Musang King Alliance (Samka)

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — A group of farmers calling themselves the Save Musang King Alliance (Samka) cautioned that Malaysia’s durian industry is “at risk of being destroyed” if the authorities allow the Royal Pahang Durian Group (RPD Group) to take over the fruit production at the orchards.

Its advisor Chow Yu Hui and chairman Wilson Cheng, who have been highlighting an impending “Musang King crisis” in the country, claimed the issue at stake to be the exploitative contracts that would grant RPD a monopoly of the durian market.

In a joint statement, the Samka leaders said the bigger picture was the impact on the development of the agricultural industry in Malaysia. 

“Musang King is an icon of Malaysia and if the industry is monopolised, the mature durian production chain will be destroyed.

“And the development space of small-scale farmers will be drastically reduced and thousands of Raub residents will lose their livelihood,” they said.

They claimed RPD Group wants to be the biggest player in the international durian market, noting that the company is building what it hopes to be the largest durian processing plant in Malaysia and creating a subsidiary for the export.

“They are also trying to take over all the Musang King farms with a licence and rob the farmers with their tyrannical contracts,” Chow and Cheng claimed.

The duo said Samka went to Parliament earlier today in hopes of getting the attention of all MPs on their situation, but were only able to hand their memorandum detailing their crisis to the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Opposition lawmakers.

RPDG is a group of companies linked to Pahang royalty, and one half of a joint venture with state entity Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Negeri Pahang (PKPP), forming RPD Produce-PKPP, or RPDP-PKPP Sdn Bhd.

The RPDP-PKPP venture was formalised in March with the objective of operating the country’s largest durian-processing centre at a cost of RM40 million, which is slated for completion by June 2021.

RPDG had also formed another joint venture with PKPP named Royal Pahang Durian Resources-PKPP Sdn Bhd (RPDR-PKPP).

In June, the Pahang state government awarded RPDR-PKPP the lease and rights to 5,357 acres of land in Raub for 30 plus 30 years, of which up to 30 per cent RPDG alleges have been encroached.

Following the award, RPDR-PKPP then offered the farmers on the encroached land a means of legitimising their plots through the legalisation scheme, as the rightful lease holders of these plots.

Last week, farmers of the popular Musang King durian in Pahang claimed that they were being driven into a situation akin to “modern slavery” through the legalisation scheme.

They alleged that they are being pressed into signing an exploitative contract that would require them to pay “rent” of RM6,000 per acre for this year, and an additional levy of up to RM20,000 per acre based on the durians produced.

However, RPDG had denied these claims and pointed out its bigger goal of thwarting the growing influence of foreign-backed players in the local market.

A spokesman from RPDG, in an exclusive interview with Malay Mail yesterday, explained the legalisation scheme — that was compared to “modern slavery” by Samka — would ultimately lead to a win-win situation between the growers, state and industry.

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