Farmers appeal to allow ketum cultivation


KANGAR: Ketum farmers and traditional healers in Kedah, Perlis and Penang have appealed to the government to reconsider the Rubber Industries Smallholders Development Authority’s (Risda) proposal to cultivate the plant for commercial purposes.

Non-governmental organisation Gabungan Setia Melayu Pulau Pinang chairman, Mohd Ridzuan Ibrahim said the demand had strong foundations.

Besides, local researchers had yet to find any evidence that ketum could be hazardous, he noted.

“Today, there are farmers and practitioners from the three states who want to show the benefits of ketum, and we stand by our opinions to be allowed to cultivate ketum for the purpose of increasing farmer earnings.

“I’m surprised that with many researchers having carried out studies on the plant, there are still parties refusing to recognise the many advantages of this plant,” said Mohd Ridzuan at a press conference here yesterday.

Nearly 100 farmers and practitioners who used ketum for traditional medicines attended the press conference, including entrepreneur Ooi Teik Lee, who has been exporting ketum to the United States and Europe since 2008.

Recently, Risda chairman Zahidi Zainul Abidin had proposed to the government to allow smallholders to cultivate ketum for export to increase their earnings, only to receive backlash from several parties.

Even the Kedah and Perlis state governments had said they would seize the farmers’ lands if they planted ketum.

Mohd Ridzuan said a researcher from Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Dr Darshan Singh, who had studied ketum for more than 10 years, described the plant as one which did not endanger public health or caused adverse effects to those drinking ketum juice.

“So, what are the reasons for the government to ban the plant when it is in high demand? Even Western researchers have proven the plant is effective in treating a number of diseases.

“The government should first consult experts in the country before making any decision,” he said.

A traditional medicine practitioner, Zakaria Salam, 63, from Kampung Baru Ladang Tebu, Padang Terap in Kedah said since the 1960s, his family had been using ketum to treat worm-related diseases, aches, fatigue and drug addiction.

Ahmad Rosli Ismail, who owns a small rubber plantation, also from Padang Terap said many smallholders depended on the sale of ketum to eke out a living as rubber prices had plummeted recently.