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Sarawak focuses on potential for its rice

(caption story) Bario rice, red rice from Kanowit and black glutinous rice can be found at a “tamu” (market) in Miri specialising in traditional products and jungle produce. According to a seller, the rice comes from villagers from Bario and the interior. Other produce sold at the market include highland salt and belacan. – ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE / The Star

KUCHING: Sarawak is embarking on large-scale rice cultivation in efforts to make the state the new rice bowl of Malaysia.

More than 10,000 hectares of land in four areas in southern Sarawak have been identified as suitable for rice cultivation and will be planted with hybrid rice seeds originating from Vietnam, according to Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said Lubok Punggor in Gedong constituency (where Abang Johari is the state assemblyman) has been chosen for the pilot project using the hybrid rice seeds.

The other three areas to be developed for large-scale rice planting are Tanjung Bijat in Sri Aman Division, Spaoh in Betong Division, and Tanjung Purun in Lundu district.

Abang Johari said rice fields planted with the hybrid varieties can be harvested three times a year, and Sarawak could potentially produce some 240,000 tonnes of rice a year if all the four identified areas are fully developed and planted (based on projections of 24 tonnes or yield per hectare).

Currently, Sarawak’s rice production is between three to four tonnes per hectare per harvest.

“One hybrid seed is able to produce about 40 stalks of padi,” said Abang Johari during a TV Sarawak corporate social responsibility event in Kuching.

The pilot project in Gedong on a one-hectare farm yielded an impressive eight tonnes of yield recently.

He said the rice could be harvested during the third month after planting, and in the fourth month, farmers could collect all the waste and turn it into fertiliser to enrich the land.

Then, the next planting could be carried out in the fifth month.

“If Sarawak can produce 240,000 tonnes of rice a year, this means our rice production will have a surplus and this can be used for downstream activity.”

He indicated that experts from Wuhan, China, were keen to come to Sarawak to help in rice production after hearing about the success of the Gedong pilot project.

Abang Johari said he had brought up the pilot project in Gedong and the need to develop the drainage and irrigation system in the area during the recent chief ministers meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“I shared to them that we will produce rice three times a year by using hybrid seeds from Vietnam,” he added.

Abang Johari said Sarawak has abundant land for commercial rice farming but the state needs funds to finance the necessary development of infrastructure such drainage and irrigation systems.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 2,680 hectares of land in Batang Lupar, Sarawak, are being developed for rice planting to improve the country’s self-sufficiency for rice.

Meanwhile, Sarawak’s speciality rice has been enjoying increasing demand in Singapore, evident by the big jump in the volume exported by local company Antares Ventures Sdn Bhd.

Managing director Brendan Kon said Antares Ventures delivered about eight tonnes of Sarawak’s rice to Singapore for a recent large order.

“This is the first time we have received a large order from Singapore, filling a shipping container.

“Previously, there were orders but the quantities were relatively small,” Kon said during the signing of a memorandum of agreement between Antares Ventures and the World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) last week.

Their collaboration is to jointly promote and market highland rice from Ba’Kelalan under the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) planting programme initiated by WWF-Malaysia.

WWF-Malaysia associate director for Sarawak and conservation science Dr Jason Hon said WWF-Malaysia has for many years been promoting sustainable rice farming using the SRI method, which has seen improved yields of almost two fold.

There are now more than 50 farmers using the the SRI technique from just two back in 2017.

Kon said the speciality rice exported include the indigenous white and red rice from Bario, popularly known as Bario rice, aromatic white and red rice from Siburan, Padawan and Lundu, and white, black and red rice from Ba’kelalan, Long Semadoh.

He said the speciality rice is sold in major supermarkets in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.

The famed Bario white rice is priced at RM27 per kg on online shopping site Shopee, which describes it as a small grain that is slightly aromatic with a soft texture when cooked.

https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2023/11/27/sarawak-focuses-on-potential-for-its-rice QR Code

Published Date: November 27, 2023

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