Venture capital for farmers

By Jacqueline David, The Borneo Post

BAU: Agropreneurs who are already successful but low in cash flow now have the option to go for venture capital (VC) which was set up by the Sarawak government to help farmers expand their farms.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said successful agropreneurs who had reached a higher level due to subsidy assistance would not be given anymore subsidy by the Sarawak government but would be eligible for financial assistance if needed.

“That is where the VC that is set up by the state government comes in and it is available for agropreneurs.

“It will be a lot easier than going to the bank because as you know the banks set a lot of terms and conditions. VC wants to relax the terms and conditions. It is not a loan but an equity participation and the agropreneur can actually sell back their shares to VC or we sell back the shares to him, which at the moment is ringgit to ringgit,” Uggah said when met after officiating at the first harvest of Premium Pineapple Pioneer Project, which is owned by a local agropreneur David Disam, at Kampung Padang Pan, KM8 Jalan Gumbang near here yesterday.

He said the allocation for the VC this year is estimated at RM200 million and the idea of establishing the VC was mooted by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg who wanted to move away from subsidy.

“In a way, the establishing of VC is more like trying to create young farmers to become ent repreneurs, to be good managers, to be able to manage their farm, growing big and that will increase their income, push them beyond poverty level and go to middle- class level,” he said.

Uggah, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Nat ive Land and Reg ional Development ( Manred), cited Disam’s 10,000 acres of MD2 premium pineapple variety as one success story of a pineapple farmer who earns RM30,000 profit a month from selling the pineapples and the suckers.

As of 2017, pineapple farming in Sarawak involves about 1,342 hectares with total production of 38,025 metric tonnes and revenue of RM48.22 million. Currently, Sarawak is the state with the second largest pineapple production in Malaysia after Johor.

“In Sarawak, we have almost 2,000 hectares of NCR land, of which 60 per cent is hilly and looking at Disam’s pineapple farm which is on hilly land, other hilly NCR lands could also be planted with pineapple.

“I am sure other areas have a lot of potential as well. Pineapple is one of the crops that we want to develop for domestic consumption as well as for export. The chief minister has actually set a target for our ministry by 2020, we should be exporter of food products.

“At the moment we are net importer of food products by RM26 billion. Looking at that, the chief minister has a very visionary objective, and it is to be done because we have hardworking people, young people, entrepreneurs, risk takers and visionaries, we have many of them. The only thing is how to create opportunity, I think the issue lies before us,” he said, adding the ministry was looking at pineapple, banana, coconut, durians and many others for commercial farming in line with the state government’s vision to transform agriculture as the main driver of economic growth in Sarawak.

“Now we are moving away from oil palm to food products, our population is growing and we need food and I hope we will move along that direction. Focusing on and working with Malaysia Pineapple Board ( LNM), I think we can make a good breakthrough in a year or two,” he said.

Malaysia is one of the countries that produces the world’s pineapple, and the state government is focusing on expanding farming of the MD2 variety in view of the great demand.

“With a vast opportunity in pineapple farming, the Sarawak government fully supports the development of pineapple industry in the state and hopes to expand pineapple farming to 3,500 hectares by 2020,” Uggah said.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Pineapple Industry Board deputy senior director Mohd Khairuzamri M. Salleh hopes this first production of MD2 premium pineapple in Sarawak will attract the interest of locals to take up pineapple farming.

“China needs at least about 100 containers a month but unfortunately, averagely we can only send seven containers a month to China.

“Sarawak’s geographical position to China gives it an advantage because the distance between Sarawak and China is shorter compared to West Malaysia.

“The planting of MD2 pineapples in Sarawak will boost the upstream and downstream activities of this industry. The opportunity is also widely open for the supplying of MD2 suckers at a lesser price because before this, they are brought from West Malaysia at a high cost,” said Mohd Khairuzamri.

Among those present at the event yesterday were Agriculture Assistant Minister Dr Abdul Rahman Ismail, Serembu assemblyman Miro Simuh, ministry permanent secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik and Agriculture Department acting director Dr Alvin Chai Lian Kuet. – The Borneo Post