Sabah hopes to cash in on vegetable exports

A worker loading vegetables for export in Kundasang. Sabah has an overabundance of vegetables and fruits after a sudden drop in domestic consumption.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah authorities are drawing up plans for the state to become a major supplier of vegetables and fruits as a result of the business shutdown since March 18, which had led to 1,800 tons of vegetables being shipped to Sarawak and Brunei.

Plans are now also being drawn up to export cabbage and fruits to markets in Kuala Lumpur.

Sabah state agriculture minister Junz Wong said the overabundance of vegetables and fruits was the result of a sudden drop of regular domestic consumption.

Wong admitted that the excess of produce had come about because a distribution glitch caused by a miscommunication between the authorities and transporters. Many transporters did not realise that they are considered an essential service. An inter-district travel ban had caused the supply to pile up, especially in areas like Kundasang, Ranau, some 92km from here.

The Kundasang area produces over 30% of the vegetable supplies in Sabah. He said 35,000kg of cabbage would be sent to Kuala Lumpur from Kundasang, and three tons of pomelos and a ton of watermelons from Tawau.

Junz Wong in Kundasang checking on cabbage supplies. About 35,000kg of cabbages are to be sent to markets in Kuala Lumpur.

Junz said the business shutdown because of the Covid-19 crisis had caused a 40% drop in regular consumption as restaurants, schools and tourism venues were closed.

“The supply of eggs, chicken, meat, fresh milk and other dairy products are also in excess due to the reduced consumption,” said Wong.

In normal times, Sabah produces more than 3,600 tons of vegetables and fruits a month: domestic consumption stood at only 2,800 tons a month.

Sabah also produces 2.6 million chicken eggs every day, 2.8 million tons of fresh chicken meat and 800,000 litres of milk every month but the supply is only enough to cover domestic needs.

Wong said his ministry is drawing up plans to turn the state into a major vegetables and fruit supplier. A smartphone app for home delivery services is being created, he said.

He said chief minister, Shafie Apdal, would announce a new agriculture deal on May 12.

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