Fruit, veg growers urged to adopt good agricultural practices

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Idrus (4th from left) together with heads of departments and local fruit and vegetable growers at the seminar yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Fruit and vegetable growers have been urged to adopt good agriculture practices (GAP) to ensure Sabah’s fresh produce meet export quality, food safety standards which are needed to penetrate high-value markets overseas.

State Minister of Agriculture and Food Industries, Junz Wong highlighted measures to improve Malaysian (MyGAP) certification includes safe use of agrochemicals among growers to increase yields, and improve confidence of domestic and foreign markets on Sabah fruit and vegetables.

“The adoption of good agriculture practices needs to be given priority because the effect of our agriculture exports being halted due to problems over its safety and quality standards, and this will have a detrimental effect on Sabah’s economy,” he said.

The text of his speech was read by Director of State Agriculture Department Datuk Idrus Shafie during the officiating ceremony at the closing of the seminar for Best Agriculture Practices (APB) for food producers, growers and exporters to Brunei Darussalam and Sarawak.

In his address, Junz said Sabah’s fruit and vegetable sector produced 43,593.1 tonnes from total agriculture field of 21,902.2 hectares, according to State Agriculture Department statistics in 2017.

He noted that the industry should heed the lessons learnt from the banning of Sabah’s fruit and vegetable exports by Brunei then followed by Sarawak due to excessive pesticide use above the minimal residual level.

“The banning of our exports during the time had a serious effect on Sabah’s agriculture sector and affects farmers who also lose their source of income and this happened because fresh produce was tainted with chemicals that are harmful to consumers,” explained Junz.

Furthermore, he noted Brunei and Sarawak remains important markets for Sabah agriculture products with exports to Brunei contributing RM603,408 to the state economy from an estimated 436.64 tonnes exported into the Kingdom.

“This shows that fruit and vegetable sector is an important contributor to the economy, and the districts of Keningau, Tenom, Tambunan and Ranau are Sabah’s top producers of fruit and vegetables, and the largest contributors to domestic and overseas markets,” added Junz.

To ensure the food safety of locally produced fruit and vegetables, Junz said the department has implemented its monitoring programme of the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for local fresh produce, with the cooperation of its Pesticide Control Division and the Health Department.

“It is my hope that this seminar can lead to efforts to promote greater awareness among growers on safer use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals to ensure the MRL level of Sabah fruits and vegetables are within the minimum threshold,” he told over 115 growers attending the seminar.

With this, he noted the certification of MyGap and MyOrganic were also introduced to increase compliance to safety and quality standards among growers and exporters needed for export markets.

Meanwhile, Idrus added that Sabah agriculture has set the aim to commercialize three major fruit crops to penetrate domestic and international markets.

“We will be focusing on the highly-prized ‘Musang King’ durian, including pineapple and coconut; these tropical fruit crops will be produced on an industrial scale to increase yields, and will become Sabah’s exports to domestic and overseas markets such as China among others,” he said.

By MOHD IZHAM HASHIM.

Read more @ http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/26324

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