Sabah to tap fast-growing Asian market with RM2b lobster farm

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — Sabah will be looking to tap into the growing demand for lobster in the Asian region, estimated to be worth RM9 billion annually, by building a 9,300 hectare lobster park off Semporna, said Sabah chief minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman today.

The project, called Integrated Lobster Acquaculture Park (iLAP) is estimated to involve RM2 billion in investment and is projected to generate RM3 billion in annual sales by 2030 said Musa.

“This translates into vast opportunities for Malaysia and in particular the state of Sabah in becoming a major player in meeting the demand for lobsters,” he said at the launch of iLAP here.

The project is a collaboration between US restaurant giant Darden which operates the Red Lobster chain of restaurants, new local company Ever Nexus and the state of Sabah through its Yayasan Sabah foundation.

Kim Lopdrup, president of Darden International said at a press conference following the launch of iLAP that the output from the farm will be initially for the Asian region, especially China, rather than its restaurants in the US.

“The focus in on the Asian market,” he said.

Lopdrup said however that if Darden opens up restaurants in Malaysia, some of the lobsters could be used locally.

The lobster park is located off Semporna which is also the jumping off point for the world class dive site of Sipadan island but Darden officials said that the project will not significantly impact the environment.

Bill Herzig, senior vice president of purchasing, supply and innovation said that the project was very low density and would ensure that the water remained pristine as lobsters require clean water.

“We expect no environmental impact,” he said.

Darden and its partners have already done a pilot phase and the project is now in the design stage which is expected to take about 24 months.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study is also being done concurrently with the design phase and is estimated to take between 12-18 months.

Herzig said that the EIA will give the parameters to ensure the project is environmentally sustainable.

“We are very confident of meeting our sustainability objectives,” he said.

Darden is committed to invest US$300 million (RM900 million) over the life of project with the rest coming from contract farmers who will have to source for their own capital either from government grants or privately.

Farmers however will have the assurance of a guaranteed buy-back scheme.

“It’s open to all who are willing to invest,” said Herzig.

The lobster farm, touted as the world’s first integrated lobster aquaculture park will comprise three lobster hatcheries, supporting road, power and shipping infrastructure, processing plants, sea space for contract farmers and marketing entities.

It will be managed by Lobster Aqua Technologies Sdn Bhd, a joint venture between Nanyang Nexus Sdn Bhd and Inno Fisheries Sdn Bhd.

Nanyang Nexus is a joint venture between Darden and Ever Nexus while Inno Fisheries is a subsidiary of Yayasan Sabah.

Darden officials declined to give the breakdown of equity ownership of the companies.

The lobster species that will be cultivated is native to Sabah and is called the spiny lobster or the panulirus ornatus.

The park is expected to produce 40 million pounds of lobster at full capacity by 2029.

It is also expected to create some 14,000 jobs by 2022.

Darden also said that it plans to establish its Asia-Pacific restaurant development hub in Kuala Lumpur.


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