SABAH'S SUCCESS STORY IN MUSHROOM FARMING

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RANAU(Sabah), Dec 24 (Bernama) -- An enterprise situated at the scenic

Mesilau in Kundasang, at the foot of Mt Kinabalu, has been harnessing the

mountain’s cool climate to yield high quality mushrooms, especially the shiitake

species.

Borneo Mushroom, established 18 years ago, which is owned by Rural

Development Corporation (KPD), a government agency under the state Ministry of

Agriculture and Food Industries has been credited for its significant

contribution to the mushroom farming industry.

The company''s economic activities are not profit-oriented but geared more

towards complementing the government’s efforts in poverty eradication,

especially among the rural poor in Sabah.

Jamilah Lee, Borneo Mushroom''s manager, said KPD’s venture into mushroom

plantation started from humble beginnings in 1989 where the company nurtured a

few contract farmers in mushroom farming.

LOAN SCHEME

"At that time, we also introduced loan scheme to help farmers buy seedlings

in polypropylene bags (pp bags) from a private company.

"Only in 1991 KPD set up its own nursery on its 7-hectares land at Mesilau

and the following year started producing seedlings in pp bags," she said.

Jamilah said initially KPD sought technical expertise on shiitake farming

from experts in Taiwan.

"But later I attended further courses on mushroom farming in Japan and

China, and gradually improved the planting techniques here," she said.

The centre’s activities has since expanded into producing four species of

mushroom seeds and seedlings – shiitake, ganoderma or ling tze, oyster and the

jelly ear mushroom.

On top of that the centre also produces fresh shiitake, oyster, jelly ear

mushroom and the dried ling tze as well as the ling tze coffee and tea.

PROVIDING SEEDLINGS AND TECHNICAL SERVICES

Borneo Mushroom supplies mushroom seedlings in pp bags and provides

technical services on mushroom farming especially to KPD’s contract farmers and

farms.

"Currently the centre is producing about 75,000 pp bags per month to meet

the demand from mushroom farmers, especially KPD contract farmers," she said

adding that last year the centre produced almost 48,000 pp bags of seedlings per

month.

The centre also conducts theoretical and technical courses on mushroom

cultivation to participants from private agencies, institutes of higher learning

as well as interested individuals.

"Except for KPD contract farmers, fees are imposed on other participants.

And, shiitake seedlings are only given to KPD contract farmers.

The contract farmers are actually under the poverty eradication programme.

"Those eligible to join as contract farmers must be from a family with a

household income of not more than RM590 a month, which is below the poverty

line," she told Bernama.

FARMERS KEEN

Presently KPD has about 70 contract farmers who are only planting shiitake

mushroom. They are mostly in Kundasang, Ranau and Moyog in the Penampang

district in the west coast of Sabah.

According to Jamilah, besides shiitake seedlings, contract farmers also

provided with building material to build the ''mushroom houses'' and required to

attend on-farm training at Borneo Mushroom.

"We also assigned three senior staff to monitor monthly the contract

farmers’ progress," she said adding that the centre currently has about about 20

staff.

Under contract farming agreement Borneo Mushroom will buy back shiitake

mushrooms from contract farmers before being sold to the wholesalers.

"All shiitake bought from contract farmers are strictly graded to ensure

that only the best quality products sold to the wholesalers," she said.

GOOD INCOME FROM MUSHROOMS

Jamilah said the contract farmers'' earning depends on their farming scale

often between 300 and 3,000 pp bags, which translate into an earning of about

RM300 to RM3,000 per harvest.

At the moment two of KPD’s most successful shiitake contract farmers in

Moyog, are earning between RM15,000 to RM18,000 a year.

Jamilah said KPD’s total production of mushroom until last September was

21.42 metric tons, an increase of 16 percent compared with the same period last

year.

"For the last three years, we have already trained 907 people including 214

participants under the Hardcore Poor Eradication Programme (PPRT)," she said.

Meanwhile, KPD’s general manager, Datu Haji Basrun Mansor said further

expansion at Borneo Mushroom is already in the pipeline with the RM3.5 million

loan from the state government.

MOVING AHEAD

Basrun said the money would be spent to upgrade the centre, including buying

a new boiler and autoclave to double the centre’s present production capacity of

75,000 pp bags.

The expansion plan is necessary in view of the high demand for fresh

mushroom in the country, especially shiitake.

A special information centre would be set up to highlight the history,

function and success of the centre.

"We are also getting funds from the federal government to sponsor about 150

people under the PPRT program to participate in KPD mushroom plantation for

three years," he said.

"We are also considering turning Borneo Mushroom into an agro-tourism

centre, where we can organize farm tours, especially for local and foreign

visitors who want to stay here for pleasure or for educational purposes.

"Occasionally, we have been receiving many visitors from local and foreign

countries who are interested in mushroom farming, including university students

who do research and practical training at the centre," he said.

Basrun said the centre has been awarded with the Halal and Good Agricultural

Practice Scheme (SALM) certificates in 2007 and also the Malaysia Best

certificate recently.

-- BERNAMA

EM NT PR CR

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