Sunday, September 27, 2009

Felda Will Build National Food Warehouse: An Idea or A Dream?

Felda Will Build National Food Warehouse: An Idea or A Dream?

The Federal land Development Authority (Felda) will set up a National Food Warehouse. It was announced by Felda Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Yusof Noor. This is a second time I heard he made an "out of box" idea".

The first time about his idea was 15 years ago when Dr Mohd Yusof Noor was Menteri Besar Terengganu.He announced that Terengganu will build a LRT system after the same transport system was introduced in Klang Valley. People laugh about the idea, and it was stopped there!

According to the Felda Chairman, Felda will come up with a blueprint for the setting up of a national food warehouse in the next two months. The blueprint would include identifying the types of crops as well as methods of marketing the produce.

To implement the idea, a National Food Warehouse unit had been set up to help Felda realise the government's aspiration for the agency to earn revenue from other sources.

The unit will comprise a team of professionals and experts from Felda as well as those outside the agency. The blueprint will spell out plans for the next 15 years. The warehouse would require a RM750 million investment which it woild store vegetables, beef and fish products.

Let we discuss this brilliant idea....

The basic idea related to setting up a national food warehouse is producing and marketing of agricultural products. This is clearly stated in the out of date blueprint National Agriculture Policy.

Ministry of Agriculture has to change its name from Ministry of Agriculture to Ministry of Agriculture and Agrobased Industry because of challenges it faces when deal with "agriculture". Even, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia has changed its name to Universiti Putra Malaysia which was a wrong decision.

Ministry of Agriculture has introduced many initiatives to promote agriculture where it has a vision that by 2010 Malaysia will become a major food producer and net exporter of food in the world. This policy was introduced by Datuk Dr Nawawi when he was a minister of agriculture.

He was a good minister due to he was a business man before joining the goverment. He had tried hard to transform malaysian agriculture from "agriculture for the poor" to the "agriculture is a business". But his action plans were almost failed because he had to deal with the PTD officers who did not know anything about agriculture business except administering the office.

When Tan Sri Mahyuiddin took over the post of Minister of Agriculture, he has introduced many action plans to implement the Dr Nawawi's ideas. This include using a well known local consultant to promote Malaysia as a hub for aquaculure centre.

Government had launched an aquaculture pilot project in Tasik Kenyir Terengganu a few year ago. It was a brilliant idea due to it was a business driven in nature. But, today the project was failed. As Dr Nawawi faced, Tan Sri Mahyuddin faced many challenges with the PTD officers who come to the office to "makan gaji" not has a "business man attitude" to make agricuture is a business.

Other major initiative by the goverment is through FAMA by establishing TEMANs (a terminal for food warehouse in selected areas), but the projects were also failed.

And if we believe in past history of Malaysian agriculture, the National Food Warehouse sure will fail, except that there is "an abnormal action plan and out of box idea" comes from the Prime Minister Datuk Najib. I look he is a brilliant and hard working minister after Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

The main problem with the Malaysian agriculture is the political influences on agriculture and land matters. Both matters are state affairs and not a federal matter. The federal government can't do anything with the land matters eventhough the states are governed with the same political parties. For example, during the Barisan Nasional time, many paddy lands in Kedah, Perlis and Malacca were converted to housing projects even though the Federal Government had been trying to maintain paddy farms and increase the productivity of the paddy yield to meet at least 60% self-sufficientcy level for the nation.

With the different political backdrop in many states today, agriculture development in Malaysia is affected and could not be coordinated anymore. I don't thinks the states which are controlled by different political parties have the common understanding with the federal government when it comes to economic development agenda. Do you believe in me?

Believe me...Malaysian agriculture include food production policy is under uncertainty....


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Research Success Translates Into Agricultural Profitability

Research success translates into agricultural profitability

Over ten years, researchers at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) have been relentlessly researching on and developing new products to improve the local agricultural industry.

With UPM’s collective academicians and researchers continuously undertaking new and novel research and development into their respective fields, UPM has been abundantly blessed with an ever-increasing influx of new agro centric creations, ranging from growth enhancers and vaccines to a virus detection kit.

A fine example of one such creation would be Vita-Grow. A plant growth enhancer, this impressive award winning creation was first introduced to the commercial market in 2000 and has been used by farmers across Asia to increase plant yield and promote growth.

Additionally, the use of Vita-Grow also helps farmers get quality produce by stimulating flowering and safeguarding against flower and bud shedding.

Similar to Vita-Grow, is another growth enhancer, TrichoGreen, which helps reduce palm tree infections. TrichoGreen was commercialised in 2006 and apart from enhancing the growth of palm seedlings, it is also recommended for vegetable, organic and herbal farming.

Disease prevention in livestock is another key research focus area of UPM. As poultry is Malaysia’s prime meat of choice, efforts were taken by UPM to eradicate the Newcastle disease, which is a highly contagious zoonotic bird disease that affects avian species and threatens commercial poultry breeding.

To eradicate this threat to poultry farmers, UPM developed a vaccine, called V4-UPM, to treat the problem. The creation, which was commercialized in 1995, is heat-resistant and suitable for use by breeders in tropical countries. It can also be used for mass vaccination and distributed in feed, thus making it easy to use in a big scale.

Due to V4-UPM’s huge success and its readily being embraced by local poultry farmers, the local pharmaceutical company which commercialised V4-UPM then did the same also for another UPM vaccine, which is used to vaccinate fowl pox. This tissue cultured vaccine is cheap and an effective method to control fowl pox disease. It has been found very effective in safeguarding poultry health.

For padi farmers, there is a rice seed germination enhancer called Zappa, which delays or suffocates untreated weedy rice seeds present in soil. This in turn reduces the problem of weeds in the long term.

Zappa, which was commercialised in 2002 and has won numerous local and international awards, also increases the growth of padi roots and shoots and can increase the padi harvest by up to 57%. It also helps reduce seed-borne diseases, increases seed purity, reduces rat attacks and conserves water usage.

As for sheep and goat breeders, UPM specifically developed an inter-nasal spray vaccine that aids in preventing their livestock from catching pneumonic mannhermiosis. The vaccine, which was introduced in 2006, has won awards in Geneva and Pittsburg.

Similarly, the anti-microbial compound, Bacteriocin UL4, is another worthy UPM creation that is suitable for vast application in the health, food and livestock industry. Its benefits even include its ability to act as a bio-preservative for the food and beverage industry, due to its ability to curb harmful bacterial growth that can cause digestive stress.

Bacteriocin UL4, which was commercialised in 2005, also helps promote the growth of beneficial bacteria by improving food digestion and adsorption, strengthening the body’s natural immunity system, lowering cholesterol and reducing the gastrointestinal tract’s pH levels.

For shrimp virus detection, UPM designed a kit for the detection of White Spot Syndrome virus. The product helps minimise cross-contamination, is economically priced and its simple DNA extraction protocol makes it fast and easy to use. Since its commercialisation in 2005, it has won numerous national and international awards.

Other noteworthy creations by UPM includes a product it commercialised in 2003. The many benefits of this product includes its ability to act as a natural substitute in chickens in order to promote their antibiotic growth.

As a probiotic for poultry this product can reduce fat and cholesterol in broilers and egg yolks. Its benefits include the ability to improve feed efficiency, egg production, weight and size, as well as a reduced mortality rate.

Furthermore, this noteworthy creation also helps reduce noxious bacterial enzymes and pathogenic bacteria in the intestinal tract.

If UPM’s current astounding and impressive creations are a precursor to what is to come, the future indeed heralds much greatness and accolades for this most illustrious of universities!

Souce: New Sunday Time, July 5, 2009
Related Link: Malaysian Education Blog

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Palm Oil

Future of Palm Oil Remains Bright
By Ahmad Ibrahim

Just a year ago, palm oil was on Cloud Nine. It was the toast of the country’s economy. The price of crude palm oil (CPO) breached the RM4,000 mark to touch RM4,312 a tone on March 3, last year. Price stayed above RM3,000 for about seven months, an all-time record.

Palm oil companies were dishing out big fat bonuses for their employees. Many were declaring handsome dividends for their investors. Oil palm smallholders were enjoying lucrative returns. Nobody then thought that palm oil prices would ever drop to unprofitable levels. Most in the industry were convinced that the palm oil price would never again dip below RM2,000 a tone.

That just demonstrated the overwhelming confidence many had in the palm oil industry.

Events of recent weeks have shattered that confidence. On Oct 24, last year, palm oil prices slumped to a low of RM1,390 per tonne, a massive drop from RM4,000.

Not so long ago,such a price level would still have been considered lucrative by past standards. That was when the cost of production averaged around RM600 to RM800 per ton. That has since escalated drastically.

A large part of the blame is attributed to the rise in fertilizer cost-a major component of production. When the crude oil price rose to more than US$140 (RM520) per barrel, the price of fertilizer followed suit. Though oil has now dropped below US$40, no similar drop has been seen in fertilizer prices.

Factor in labour costs, and it is easy to understand the big jump in palm oil costs. The average cost of production for last year may have hit RM1,000-RM1,200.

Change in palm oil prices is always big news in Malaysia. This is because for many years now palm oil has dominated Malaysia’s economy, especially in the rural areas. The prosperity of rural Malaysia, for example, is almost synonymous with palm oil.

Any bearishness in the palm oil market is seriously felt there. Every time palm oil prices drop too much, oil palm smallholders are hit the hardest. This is because most depend entirely on their palm oil income. Though many attribute the current price drop to the financial turmoil that has adversely affected global palm oil demand, many believe there are other forces influencing the price movement.

Apart from market demand, it is widely known that palm oil prices are also influenced by such factors as palm oil supply, changes in regulation on import and export, oilseed demand and supply, speculative activities, crude oil prices and the global economic outlook, just to name some.

At present, the global economic slowdown is the major force no doubt. With many not discounting a repeat of a 1930s-type recession, the focus now is on how to revive confidence and remove any lingering doubts among investors about the future of palm oil.

Though prices have recovered slightly since the low of March last year, the industry has outlined six strategic initiatives to help sustain prices for palm oil. These include creating biodiesel demand, better stock management, using the big discount to other oils to expand demand, aggressive marketing, resolving environmental issues, and branding.

The biodiesel policies already enacted should be implemented without further delay. This new demand will not only help reduce palm oil stocks but can also be leveraged as a protection against low prices.

During periods of low prices, a good replanting strategy can be effective in regulating and reducing supply. This in turn can help prop up prices.

It has been suggested that at an average replanting rate of 4% of total matured acreage per year, at least 600,000 tonnes can be taken out from supply.

The industry must continue must undertake aggressive market promotion to capture the market from the more expensive oils. It needs to tackle issues on the environment now being confronted by the industry. And, last but not least, it must invest in branding and brand support. Concepts such as certified and sustainable palm oil should be exploited.

Fortunes can change in unexpected ways. In the case of the palm oil industry, that long spell of good fortune on high prices and bullish demand had to end one day. Many in the industry did not expect it to happen so suddenly, denting confidence that had always been strong in the industry.

But a recent conference in Phuket, Thailand sent a strong message that despite the recent setbacks, the long term future of palm oil remains bright. And why not? Palm oil is the most economic edible oil to produce. This, together with its other nutritional and technical attributes, ensures palm oil can never be matched by the other competing oils.

With new developments in technologies and applications, palm oil’s global competitiveness can only get stronger.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board has been developing new products based on palm oil, while the Malaysia Palm Oil Council has been opening up new markets. With the industry always closely monitoring business changes, the industry has the armoury to face crisis in whatever form. With the right measures, there is no reason why price recovery cannot happen soon.

Note: The writer is fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Source: New Straits Times, Thursday, March 5, 2009
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Sarawak Oil Palm Planters Seek Respite from Government

If yesterday, we heard about problems faced by seafood exporters (see yesterday blog), today in the StarBiz (Friday, 19 December 08)I read about Sarawak oil palm planters problem. They are badly hit by the fall in crude palm oil (CPO) prices, and want the Government to give them some breathing space by waiving the windfall profit tax, lowering the cess and sales taxes, and regulating high fertiliser prices.

Sarawak oil palm planters also proposed that the unused portion of the cess collected for the Cooking Oil Subsidy Scheme by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) be refunded directly to Sarawak plantation companies.

A waiver is also proposed for Sarawak plantation companies which are still paying their outstanding cess instalments. It is understood that Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners Association has got an assurance from the Minister of Primary Industries and Commodities that the proposals would be studied by the ministry concern.

The association said that the minister had given an indication that Sarawak planters would be allowed to export their CPO tax-free, given the high national CPO stockpile.

Sarawak Oil Palm Plantation Owners will form a consortium to jointly set up own refineries if the existing four refiners in Sarawak refuse to abolish the RM40 per tonne discount on the association CPO price.

Sarawak Plantation managing director suggested that the government should use the MPOB cess on R & D to assist Sarawak planters in sustainable management of peat areas as well as cultivating more efficient agriculture practices.

For information, the Sarawak oil palm industry is still at an infancy stage with about 20% of matured oil palm areas and low yields.

It is understood that with the CPO price currently at RM1,500 per tonne, many Sarawak planters were incurring losses and cash flow squeeze, given the high cost of production at RM1,800 to RM2,000 per tonne. Planters in the Semenanjung have a cost of production of about RM1,100 to RM1,200 per tonne.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Malaysia Seafood Export Industry Collapse

One interesting topic on theSun today (18 Dec o8): "Malaysia's RM2.5 billion seafood export industry near collapse". According to the paper, the collapse was because of the ban on Malaysian seafood by the European Union (UE) in June 2008.

For information, the Malaysian seafood industry is the country's second largest food export earner, with Europe as its main market. But, the EU has found environmental and hygiene standards in the Malaysian industry to be wanting.

The Malaysian Frozen Foods Processors Association (MFFPA) has raised an alarm that the industry has a lifeline of only three months left, as millions of ringgit in stocks languish in cold rooms, unable to be exported.

According to theSun, the situation is worsened because the product cannot be sold to other countries due to different packing and logistical requirements. MFFPA said the seafood exporters have reported an estimated loss in sales and production of more than RM1.5 billion to date. Further more, the players can no longer withstand the losses and pressure from commercial banks; and some 10,000 workers from the MFFPA's 25 member operators stand to lose jobs, alongside 50,000 indirect workers in related services. It is understood that many factories have started to retrench workers.

To add insult to injury, the Malaysian government has increased the electricity rate by 30%. Three months ago, the cabinet approved a RM500 million rescue package through soft loans to help industry players, with priority given to MFFPA members, however, the money has yet to be given out.

The Malaysian government has been given the Guidelines for export to the EU in 2005, but these were not implemented when EU inspectors came to Malaysia in April and May 2008. The inspection team's main concerns were fishing vessels, landing ports and agriculture farms. The processing factories were not the concern as most of the processing plants were audited by the EU Health Authority on an ad hoc basis.

According to MFFPA, the industry can be saved if the government acts fast.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Handling Technology Of Minimally Processed Jackfruit For Export Markets

Handling Technology Of Minimally Processed Jackfruit FOR Export Markets


Jackfruit is one of the tropical fruits suitable for minimal processing. A single fruit may weigh more than 10 kg. Thus it is not convenient for the consumer to carry the whole fruit back home, or it may be too much to consume at once, particularly for smaller families. It is an aggregate fruit with numerous fruitlets, each containing one seed. The fruitlet is covered with epidermal cells and cuticle layer with a waxy appearance. The process of separating the fruitlets from the center core is quite unpleasant since the fruit is full of gummy latex that sticks to the hands and knives. The difficulty in assessing the flesh often results in an unsightly product.

At present, marketing activity of minimally processed jackfruit is mainly being conducted on daily basis. Polyethylene bag has been commonly used for packing minimally processed jackfruit at the wet market and the stalls by the roadside. However, at the dry market the minimally processed jackfruit was packed on polystyrene tray overlapped with stretched film. The fruit turns slimy and deteriorates rapidly, resulting in off-flavour. Shelf life at the supermarket shelf is only 3-4 days. Today, MARDI has developed a technology for minimally processed jackfruit, which has a potential not only for the local markets but also for export.

Technology Description

Package technology developed for minimally processed jackfruit involves various steps:-
>>Fruit harvested at commercial maturity
>>Handling operation involves:
>Fruit ripening
>Fruit cutting – isolating the fruitlets
>Suitable retail and bulk packing

Novelty of Technology

>>The latex problem and difficulties in separating the fruitlets from the epidermal cells can be overcome by the precooling process.
>>Firmer fruitlet as cutting process is conducted only to fruits achieving 60% skin softening.
>>The technology employed the use of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) and low temperature storage to reduce weight loss and tissue browning even after 3 weeks.
>>The use of rigid polypropylene containers for retail packing and insulated boxes for bulk packing reduces physical injury, makes handling easier and stacking possible.
>>The use of frozen gel provides a cool environment to the packed jackfruit which slows down ripening and other metabolic processes, reduces deterioration and minimizes the ethylene effect which influence shelf life.
>>The technology can be easily adopted for local or export markets
The longer storage life enables more efficient and wider market distribution.
>>A quality assurance protocol has been developed for minimally processed jackfruit under ASEAN Australian Economic Cooperation Program to ensure safe products being delivered to the consumer.

Jackfruit in Minimally Processed Form Offer Many Advantages

>>Ease in serving portion of large and difficult to peel fruits;
>>Reduce cost in packaging and transportation;
>>Extend the shelf life;
>>Minimize the quarantine barrier;
>>The quality of the products can be seen thus provide good selection for the consumer;
>>Attractive labels can be used for product description, storage requirements and expected storage life.

Comparison to Current Products

The technology on minimally processed jackfruit offers many advantages:
>>Longer storage life. Minimally processed jackfruit can be kept for 3 weeks at 20C, 1 week at 10C and 2 days at 25C. The achievable storage life provides sufficient marketing planning for distribution both for local and export markets;
>>Ensure of safety and quality as handling operations were conducted in controlled environment following quality assurance protocols:
>>Reduction in cost of packaging and transportation;
>>Flexible production depending on market demand;

Economic Impact

>>Per-capita consumption of jackfruit fruit is expected to increase from 0.8 kg/person /yr in 2000 to 1.0 kg in 2010;
>>Production area of jackfruit is expected to increase from 6,000 hectares in 2000 to 55,000 hectares in 2010;
>>Thus it will be a good future for minimally processed jackfruit to cater the needs of the local and export markets:
>>Currently, jackfruit (whole fruit) has been exported to Singapore, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Indonesia, Middle East, United Kingdom and Thailand with the export value worth RM3 million in 2004 and targeted to increase to RM10 million 2010;
>>The demand for jackfruit in minimally processed is expected to increase as cost of transportation can be reduced with the removal of the inedible portion of the fruits (skin, epidermal layers, seeds and the center core). These inedible portion constitutes about 40-50% of the fruit weight.

Potential Users

>>The technology is targeted towards local fruit suppliers as well as exporters;
>>The technology has a potential for export not only by air but also by sea shipments to markets such as Hong Kong, China and Taiwan as traveling time is only between 5-7 days;

Export Trial

>>An Export trial of minimally processed jackfruit by air shipment to Netherlands was successfully conducted in June 2006. The trial was conducted in collaboration with counterparts in Malaysia (FAMA, DOA, fruit exporter from Selangor) and from Netherlands (fruit importer, Agriculture Atache, Matrade and Malaysian Embassy).

>>The technology of minimally processed jackfruit fruit had been successfully taken up for export by air shipment to the European markets (Netherlands, Belgium, Zurich) and also to Middle East.

For further information please contact:
Latifah Mohd Nor
Horticulture Research Centre
MARDI Headquarters, Serdang
P.O Box 12301, 50774 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-8943 7545
Fax: 03-8948 7590

Or write to:
Horticulture Research Centre
MARDI Headquarters, Serdang
P.O Box 12301, 50774 Kuala Lumpur

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Malaysia: Agriculture the Main Thrust

Malaysia: Agriculture the Main Thrust

The East Coast Economic Region is set to be an agropolitan hub focusing on developing crop, fish and livestock clusters

Agriculture will be the main thrust of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), generating revenue of RM8.57 billion in the three east coast states by 2020, Petronas president and chief executive officer Tan Sri Hassan Merican.

Two years ago, revenue from agriculture was about RM3.7 billion.

To help Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu achieve this, the ECER - the latest of the country's three economic corridors introduced in the past few months - is creating an "agropolitan", literally an A-Z of an agricultural hub.

Hassan said Kelantan had been identified for the cultivation of poultry and herbs, Terengganu for goat rearing and citrus valley and Pahang, for cattle farming and pineapples.

'Our experts have identified two types of crops - citrus fruits and pineapples - as the most suitable to be cultivated in the region," he said in a statement.

In 2005, agriculture accounted for about 16 percent of the region's gross domestic product and provided 22.9 percent of the regional labour force. ECER, which also covers Mersing in Johor, makes up 51 percent of the total land areas in Peninsular Malaysia.

Agropolitan is an all-encompassing approach from providing quality seeds to good agriculture practices and business mentoring, and it will help many get a leg up. As a whole, the creation of agropolitan hubs will enhance industry practices, increase yield and supplement income stream.

This is being done by expanding large-scale commercial farming, the use of modern technology, developing value-added activities and improving supply chain management, Hassan said.

Central of the approach is the establishment of Collection, Processing and Packaging Centres (CPPCs) and Collection and Marketing Centres (CMCs). They are the nerve centre for sorting, grading and tagging of fruits and vegetables, packaging, processing, palletising, cold chain services, retails and export management and distribution.

The CPPC and CMC will also serve as a one-stop centre for services certification and accreditation. They will be connected to supermarkets and exporters for efficiency, production planning, inventory control as well as trading and negotiations.

A total of 18 CPPCs and CMCs will be built, including eight specifically to cater for fruits and vegetables. The remaining 10 will focus on kenaf (two), herbal (three), fish (two) and livestock (three).

Petronas has also proposed a number of agriculture parks. They include permanent, separate parks for agriculture food, poultry production, beef/mutton production and Aquaculture Industry Zone (AIZ).

In Pahang, some 7,400ha in Pekan and Rompin has been earmarked for pineapple parks as well 5,000ha in Ulu Tembeling and 3,500ha in Lanchang for permanent fruit parks. Terengganu gets 1,000ha in Lojing for floriculture and vegetable plantation and another 1,414ha in Dungun for a citrus fruits valley. There will be two AIZs in Terengganu (Kenyir) and Kelantan (Pergau).

Part of the agropolitan approach is to focus on developing crop, fish and livestock clusters. The strategies also require participation of private sector and government agencies like Felda as anchor companies, and the strengthening of marketing and global networking.

Strategic initiatives to develop the crop clusters will include establishing nucleus-contract farming models involving farmers and anchor companies, as well as agriculture parks including permanent food production parks, and group farming projects.

Kuala Berang in Terengganu has been picked as a production base of breeder animal stocks for goats, while Muadzam Shah in Pahang, for cattle to be distributed to commercial farmers for breeding and fattening.

SMEs (small and medium enterprises), meanwhile, will be roped in for poultry farming in at least four poultry parks in Gua Musang (Kelantan), Chendering (Terengganu), Gebeng and Gambang in Pahang.

Strategies for the fisheries clusters will include production of fish for commercial fish farming, development of downstream activities relating to fish processing and value-added products and improving output and economic standing of micro-SMEs currently involved in fish processing.

Overall, the focus on agropolitan will create jobs for more than 42,000 local populace throughout the value chain, besides entrepreneur opportunities for local companies and SMEs, Hassan said

Source: BizNews, The New Straits Times, Saturday, October 6, 2007