Sabah warns against taking part in guarana projects

Sabah has imposed a ban on the import of guarana seeds. (Facebook pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Guarana farming is being promoted in Sabah despite reminders by the state government that there is an import ban on the seeds of the plant, which originates from Brazil.

Sabah Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Junz Wong said his ministry has received reports that a so-called application form is being circulated, inviting people to join a guarana farming project.

Wong said the application form, using the Persatuan Industri dan Asas Tani Sabah (Pintas) letterhead, is being sold for between RM5 and RM10.

He said his ministry, through the agriculture department, has never approved any permit application to bring guarana seeds into Sabah.

Wong said he had previously announced that those promoting guarana schemes must apply for permission from the agriculture department and adhere to procedures on plant quarantine.

Guarana is a climbing plant found in the Amazon basin, with seeds containing twice the caffeine content of coffee beans. It has been used in herbal teas as well as energy drinks and is promoted by natural health companies.

A plant import permit is required under the Quarantine Act 1976 and Plant Quarantine Regulation 1981 to bring guarana into Malaysia.

The ‘application form’ for guarana farming that is being circulated.

“There hasn’t been any application, so I need to remind the public not to fall prey to this,” Wong said, adding that guarana is also not on the list of plants identified as economic generators.

He said any new plant that is to be introduced must first go through the research, development and commercialisation process.

“Guarana is a new plant and its potential has yet to be identified,” he said.

The federal government had previously banned the import of the plant and its seeds, as it could introduce the South American leaf blight disease – caused by the fungi Microcyclus ulei – the main fungal disease affecting rubber trees.

Wong said Brazil is listed as a high-risk country as the disease is endemic to the country.