State asks federal government to engage professionals for detailed roadmap
Needed: Biotech research, new farming techniques and HR development
By Joseph Masilamany
The Chief Minister of Sarawak, Malaysia, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has called for a green revolution, where entire regions in the state could be turned into “green baskets” and have their produce, such as fruits, exported.
Taib said this after officiating the BioBorneo 2012 event in February. He said regions of the East Malaysian state, such as Sarikei and Bintangor, where the people are accustomed to fruit cultivation, should be turned into large-scale “green baskets” or enclaves. “The fruits could perhaps be transported to Sibu Airport for export to India and other countries where fruits are in demand,” said Taib.
Taib (second from left) wants Sarawak to optimise its export potential for agriculture (photo credit: GPA Photo)
“We can use biotechnology to improve agricultural methods and have the fruits processed properly, from the health point of view. This export business will augur well for the two areas in particular, and the state in general.”
He pointed out that federal government support would be needed because the exercise would involve a wide range of research in biotechnology and adopting modern farming techniques.
Human resource crucial too
The chief minister suggested the federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation engage professionals to draw up a roadmap to harness the global market. “I recommend to the ministry to have a patent lawyer, probably the best you can get, to chart out a detailed plan to enter the global market. Believe me, some international companies are very difficult clients to deal with,” said Taib.
He said Sarawak is blessed with a huge potential for agriculture and aquaculture development. Citing the Rajang Delta as an example, Taib said the region used to be a nightmare to develop due to its soft soil, but later it was found to be suitable for rearing fish and other seafood on a large scale.
Taib conceded that the state faced difficulties in developing the right manpower to tap its vast potential. “I know we have people at the top level but the middle level is suffering due to a shortage of a good workforce. We have to train people all the way, not only as research scientists but also as laboratory assistants,” he said.
Support for companies
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Fadillah Yusof, who was at the launch, said the inaugural BioBorneo will be an annual event.
He said the country wants to further develop biological resources-based industry or bioeconomy, adding that this stems from the National Biotechnology Policy, which is in line with the economic transformation strategy.
Through BiotechCorp, an agency under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI), more than 210 companies have received BioNexus status with a total approved investment of RM2 billion (US$661 million) since the policy was implemented in 2005. BioNexus status is awarded to qualified international and Malaysian biotechnology companies and comes with fiscal incentives, grants and other guarantees to assist growth.
The three-day BioBorneo event witnessed the exchange of three memoranda of understanding between the National Institute of Biotechnology (Malaysia) and Universitas Tanjungpura (Pontianak, Indonesia); BiotechCorp and Craun Research Sdn Bhd; and Bee Forty One Agrotech Sdn Bhd and Dewan Usahawan Bumiputera Sarawak (Samarahan branch).
The event is part of a year-long programme held in conjunction with the National Science and Innovation Movement 2012 and the Bioeconomy Initiative Malaysia launched last year. Co-organised by MOSTI, Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), BiotechCorp, Malaysian Genome Institute and Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre, the objective of the programme was to establish a platform for the sharing of high-impact innovation and technology.