Posted By rajlira On 28th September 2007 @ 00:00 In Local
Ministry confident new commercial crops, Jatropha and bamboo can bring great economic returns to State
KUCHING: The Land Development Ministry is optimistic that it can strike gold in making Jatropha and bamboo the new commercial crops for the State.
Its minister Dato Sri Dr James Masing said research and development (R&D) were now being carried out to study the feasibility of planting the two crops on a large-scale.
He pointed out that Sarawak could emulate the success of China, which had reaped the benefits of R&D of the two crops.
“We can strike gold here,” he said at a Thank You dinner for the local media at a restaurant here Wednesday.
Masing recently led a 11-member delegation from Sarawak to China for a five-day working visit to study Jatropha bio-fuel plantation, bio-fuel diesel processing and potentials of bamboo cultivation.
While in China, they visited the Jatropha Research Institute and bamboo plantations and processing factories, among other places.
They also attended meetings and discussions with key players in the biofuel industry including China government officials, biofuel researchers and implementers.
On Jatropha, Masing said R&D was needed to find out which of its species could adapt better to the local conditions in Sarawak and with a sizeable oil content similar or close to the 30 per cent oil content in Jatropha of China.
He added that in China, Jatropha seeds from one hectare of plantation could produce up to nine tonnes of oil per year.
“The question is can we grow it here? My answer is yes, we can,” he said.
He pointed out that there was a growing global demand for biofuel due to the rising concern over global warming, since biofuel especially the ones produced by Jatropha did not contribute to carbon monoxide pollution unlike conventional fossil fuel.
Masing added that since the Malaysian government was committed to producing and using biofuel, thus this gives more reasons to try mass planting of Jatropha to supplement oil palm.
“Since the oil from Jatropha is used solely for biofuel, this makes it the best substitute for crude palm oil,” he added.
Jatropha plant also had medical potential for skin related diseases and constipation besides other cosmetic and pharmaceutical potentials,” he said.
Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (Mardi) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) are currently carrying out the R&D on Jatropha at a site in Lundu near here.
On bamboo, Masing said the Sarawak Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Salcra) has been asked to look into the possibility of cultivating bamboo given the State’s vast tracks of idle land.
Noting that commercial bamboo in China were bigger and individually grown unlike the bamboo in Sarawak which were in brunches, he said the potential of commercial bamboo growing was huge in Sarawak’s land development efforts.
“We try to see if we can grow this particular species of bamboo on a large-scale basis here,” he added.
He added that China was now among the world’s leaders in bamboo land use and product development as well as in research, and this was proven by the US$400 million that country earned yearly from the plant.
The bamboo produced by China are used in building materials including flooring and panels, scaffolding, furniture, fabrics, food products, as well as in pharmaceutical products.
Masing, who is also Sarawak Land Development Board chairman and president of a faction in Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), thanked the local media for publishing stories on the delegation’s visit to China.
“We look forward to introducing more new commercial crops to Sarawak, and the cooperation from the media is very much needed,” he added.
Among those present at the gathering were Land Development Assistant Minister Mohd Naroden Majais, the ministry’s permanent secretary Chaiti Bolhassan, Salcra general manager Datuk Vasco Sabat Singkang and Australian Business Centre director Rodger Chan.
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