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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Agro Parks to Bolster Modern Agriculture in Sarawak

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For the past years, Sarawak has been undertaking several measures to modernise its agriculture.

One of which is introducing new business development models and approaches leading to the commercialisation of the sector, whether by driving greater participation from the private sector or encouraging smallholders to enhance their knowledge and skills.

An example of this is the establishment of agro parks across the State. Through these modern agricultural platforms, the Sarawak Government hopes to increase food production, offer businesses more opportunities to invest in the sector, and providing potential young entrepreneurs an option to venture into commercial farming.

Under this initiative, land that is divided into lots will be rented to agropreneurs who are genuine in their effort to generate high-value agricultural produce and products through the use of the latest technologies and applications. They can even utilise the Internet to market their goods locally and globally.

To enable participants to increase their agricultural yield, operation efficiency and profitability, basic infrastructure and facilities will be developed in these agro parks, such as roads, electricity, water supply, telecommunication, drainage and irrigation.

Sarawak hopes that the agro park programme can enhance the socio-economic status of local communities. File photo

As of 2021, there are 17 agro parks being proposed for development in Sarawak; simultaneously, five agro parks have begun their set up, including those in Bebuling and Lubok Tamang in Betong, Sungai Tisak in Sri Aman and Parit Bugis in Sarikei.

The Potential of Sarawak’s Pioneer Agro Park

The first agro park in Sarawak will be Sungai Baji Agro Park in Sarikei. Currently under construction, the 127-hectare land has the potential to become a major food production hub in the region and an agro-tourism destination.

It is also expected that young Sarawakians can develop their agro-entrepeneurship at agro parks in Sarawak. Image by shahibbul from Pixabay

During his visit to the project site in late March 2022, Minister for Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development YB Dato Sri Dr. Stephen Rundi anak Utom noted the agro park’s goal of turning Sarawak into a net food producer and exporter by 2030 apart from boosting the economy and income of farmers through modern agriculture.

By modernising its agriculture, Sarawak strives to become a net food producer and exporter by 2030. File photo

“The agro park project will also be able to support the farming community in technological advancement through engagements with the private sector,” he added.

Furthermore, the utilisation of the latest agricultural technology at the park can attract local youth to consider agriculture as their career field, subsequently creating more employment opportunities and generating more lucrative income.

Basic infrastructure including Internet connectivity will enable agro park participants to make use of the latest agricultural technology. File photo

Developed by Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA), Sungai Baji Agro Park will focus on commercial fruits, vegetables and dried agro-processed products that have wide global demands, downstream prospects and a strong existing market base, such as bananas, pineapples, coconuts, durians and leafy vegetables.

It is set to feature greenhouses, food terminals, incubators, a training facility and basic infrastructure including roads, water supply, electricity and telecommunication, with the construction of the second food terminal to begin in the middle of 2022 and expected to be completed by 2024.

Through agro parks, Sarawak intends to attract businesses to invest in its agricultural sector. Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

“(The food terminal) will have four loading bays to handle the arrival of produce from sellers, a section for the packaging of goods to be carried out by wholesale tenants, another section for the storage of goods ready for pickup and a buyer’s corridor and pickup area,” states its implementing agency Regional Corridor Development Authority (RECODA).

According to chief executive officer of LCDA Agri Business Sdn Bhd En Idris Ibrahim, the agro park is opened to those aged 45 and below who have a keen interest in agricultural activities.

114 agricultural lots are available for rent and development by the park’s target group, with 16 lots being booked to be developed in the first phase, focusing on fertigation and smart farming.

“We hope (the agro park programme) goes well and gives a positive impact to the State’s agriculture, as well as act as a key driver that can improve the socio-economic status of the people here,” he explains.

A section of Pasar Tamu Sarikei. Sungai Baji Agro Park is located some five kilometres from Sarikei town
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