KUCHING, June 28 — Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg today announced an RM5 million allocation for the state Forest Department to set up a model orchid garden.

He said he has made a promise to the Forest Department director Datuk Hamden Mohammad that he wants to give the seed capital to the department to conduct an in depth research on many species of orchids found in Sarawak.

"The private sector can learn from the department on how to grow orchids and other plants with potential medicinal values as well," he said at the state-level International Day of the Forest held at the Industrial Forest Research Centre (IFRC) at Km20 Kuching-Puncak Borneo Road.

He told the department that he wants the orchids to be marketed within two years.

He said he also noticed that small plants and mushrooms are planted for research purposes, many of which are unknown to him, at the centre.

"We have to invest in research and development (R&D) and IFRC can be a very important institute, apart from our Sarawak Biodiversity Centre," he said.

He said the biodiversity resources can become a basis for the state to develop the pharmaceutical industry.

"For all we know, we can come up with medicine to cure Covid-19 infection," he said, adding that the state must be prepared to have scientific research to combat any new infectious diseases in the future.

He said he was attracted and impressed by the research undertaken by the Forest Department at IFRC, including one on mushrooms that can be used as a medicine.

"This is something we need to do with deep research," he said.

The premier said the state government has set up an Infectious Research Centre, costing about RM200 million.

He said it is under construction in Kota Samarahan.