KUCHING: Veteran pineapple planters in the state are looking forward to planting the sweet MD2 variety, which is in demand in the Middle East and Asia.
Planters in Johor have found great success with the variety, which has a longer shelf life and can thus withstand longer shipping hours.
In Sebuyau, Sungai Tambai Ketua Kampung Andrew Chuking Galang heads a group of 22 participants in a cluster plantation at Sungai Tambai covering over 100 acres.
“I am excited to plant the MD2 variety. I heard a lot about it and how it can help generate better income. I hope the authorities could provide me with 20,000 seedlings instead of the 10,000 promised earlier. I cannot wait for this to materialise,” he said.
“With MD2 seeds, I hope farmers will be more encouraged to continue with pineapple plantations.”
Chuking used to plant Nanas Pada (Sawit) because the grade AA pineapple could fetch at least RM8 per fruit, but stopped planting the variety because it was disease-prone.
Sahat Tar, who has a 150-acre plantation in Kampung Sungai Mata, Samarahan, is hoping to double his acreage with MD2.
“Pineapple plantation is not that labour intensive compared to oil palm plantation. At the early stage, I worked alone – one-man show. Now I just need a few workers. I am also glad that my youngest, 24-year-old, son Hajihat Sahat is following my footsteps. He is involved in the marketing of pineapples right now,” said Sahat.
The planter, who previously planted mostly N36 pineapples, is supported by the Integrated Agriculture Development Area (IADA) Samarahan and Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board (LPNM).
He currently plants 10,000 to 15,000 pineapple of various varieties per acre.
From each acre, Sahat earns a profit of around RM10,000 per harvest.
“The maturity period for pineapple is only 12 months and with the application of hormones, the wait for the harvest can be even shorter. And then all parts of the pineapple from seeds to the leaves are useful and will not go to waste,” he explained.
Sahat suggested the authorities help to set up pineapple canneries for local farmers.
“They will be more motivated in producing more than they do now. I built my own factory for the purpose of making biscuits and cordial drinks. But that production could only meet the demand of the locals,” he said.
“There is still room for improvement. I am hoping that the government and corporate sector could set up canneries and factories to cater for the needs of the planters and farmers. Now we are over dependent on the middlemen to move things.”
He said the industry could be developed further systematically to help in transforming the economy of rural areas.
“That means better household income for planters and job opportunities for locals at all level of the assembly.
“My hope also is for the government to encourage farmers to develop idle state land. It will be a win-win situation for both government and people if this is done. Then we all can be more successful. I also hope that agriculture development be free from politics so that more rural people could benefit from rural transformation through the pineapple industry,” he said.
When contacted, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Rural Economy, said the suitability of MD2 in the state was being studied by LPNM, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries as well as State Agriculture Department Quarantine Unit – to assess possible risks of MD2 diseases to Sarawak.
“We have not yet decided on the quantity to be provided to farmers or on the requirement for this year. Not until we have the outcome of the census and report of the quarantine unit. On density, we request the farmers to plant 20,000 points per ha to ensure that they will get good returns,” he said.
“Planting materials need to go through the quarantine procedures. Farmers too need to follow procedures. This is to ensure that plants and seeds coming into Sarawak do not carry any disease.”
LPNM state director Sahdan Salim said Sarawak is not exporting any pineapples at present, but will be able to do so with the introduction of the MD2 variety.
He said LPNM was sorting out issues to enable the MD2 seeds to be used in the state.
Because of its superior qualities, MD2 can command three times the price of other pineapples varieties.
Both Sahat and Chuking are among the 719 existing planters statewide whose average monthly income is RM1,500 each.
The state government aims to have 1,700 planters under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020), with an average monthly income of RM3,500.
Last year Sarawak managed to increase pineapple production by 70 per cent from 17 metric tonnes per ha in 2014 to 29 metric tonnes per ha.
Sarawak is targeting 2,500 hectares by 2020, with an average production of 45 metric tons per hectare.