KUANTAN: Kenaf cultivation will be extended to other areas instead of just tobacco growing areas, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said.
Dompok said the ministry had decided to revise the current policy from this year as there had been little progress and interest from tobacco growers on kenaf.
Kenaf is a valuable fibre plant of the Hibiscus cannabinus family cultivated mainly in India.
It is easy to grow, has high photosynthesis rate and used as industrial building material for board production.
The current policy is to plant kenaf to replace tobacco at tobacco farms nationwide.
“For a start, a total of 2,210ha of land will be used for the cultivation of kenaf including 1,000ha in Pahang.
“Another 1,210ha will be spread out in other states such as Kelantan (500ha), Terengganu (600ha), Kedah (50ha), Perlis (50ha), Perak (5ha) and Sabah (5ha).
“These extended growing areas will involve 627 farmers and we hope to reach full commercialisation by 2012,” he said after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between National Kenaf and Tobacco Board (NKTB) and Panasonic Electric Works Kenaf (M) Sdn Bhd on Tuesday.
Panasonic Electric Works Kenaf was represented by its managing director Shoichi Nishimura while NKTB by its director-general Ahmad Loman.
Also present were Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin and Panasonic Electric Works Ltd Japan new business plant department director Kazuo Kawai.
Dompok said the Government would continue to assist some 4,000 farmers nationwide to switch their tobacco crop to kenaf in facing the full implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) from this year.
He said due to a reduction of 5% per kilogram of import duty, imported tobacco leaves were much cheaper than locally produced leaves.
“Kenaf has been introduced as an alternative crop in tobacco areas since 2005 in which 42.2ha of land in Kelantan and Terengganu were planted for pre-commercialisation development.
“In 2009, kenaf cultivation was extended to 478ha of tobacco areas involving 101 farmers,” he said, adding that to ensure the success of the kenaf industry, the Malaysian National Tobacco Board had been dissolved with the setting up of the NKTB since April 1 with clear statutory functions, powers and expertise.
Dompok said presently, there was a monthly demand for 600 tonnes of kenaf fibre for the production of kenaf fibreboard but local production could only supply 200 tonnes.
“Kenaf is a promising industry as there is ready market for another 400 tonnes of kenaf fibre and farmers should take advantage of this growing demand.
“Kenaf production is one of the industries to be promoted under the East Coast Economic Region which covers Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang with 10,000ha of land being allocated,” he said.
Dompok said Panasonic Electric Works Kenaf had also entered into an agreement to purchase a minimum of 100 tonnes of fibre from NKTB monthly at an agreed price to be determined by both parties.
Industry sources revealed the price was estimated between RM1,700 and RM2,100 per tonne.
Dompok said all parties interested in kenaf upstream and downstream activities such as planting, processing, manufacturing and selling must also be licensed by NKTB.
He said four new companies – Kefi (M) Sdn Bhd, Kenaf Natural Fiber Industries Sdn Bhd, Seloga International Corporation Sdn Bhd and Pointray Sdn Bhd – were at the early stage of commercialisation.
He added that kenaf was an eco-friendly product treated as a new commodity that could be transformed as a new source of growth in Malaysia to diversify the country’s commodities sector.