Malaysia aims to grow herbs on large scale to cut dependence on imports

SERDANG, Nov 10 — Malaysia wants to reduce its dependence on the import of raw materials for the local herbal industry by developing herbal plantations on a large scale.

Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) Agronomy and Crop Production Programme’s principal research officer Wan Zaki Wan Mamat said currently 65 per cent of raw herbs needed were imported.  

“Of the 35 per cent local supply, 75 per cent is procured from the wild while cultivated herbs are mainly for food,” he told Bernama today.

Wan Zaki said the government had stressed on planting herbs in the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to develop the local herbal industry.

The herbs were used for food (health food, supplementary food, seasonings and food colourings), medicine (traditional medicine, phyto-medicines), personal care (cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes) and pharmaceuticals (listed and unlisted drugs). 

Statistics showed that the trade in herbal-based products reached RM777 million in 2006 and is expected to triple by 2020. 

Of the 15,000 species of plants in the country, 12,000 species were identified as having high pharmaceutical values. 

As such, Wan Zaki said, Mardi, had been given a role to head the national upstream herbal planting industry.

He said the target under the Agriculture National Key Economy Area (NKEA) was to produce products worth RM2.2 billion in 2020 from five herbs. This could result in 300 manufacturers employing 1,800 workers.

“For example, the East Coast Economic Region will invest RM20 million for a 406-hectare herb plantation in Durian Mentangau, Dungun from January next year.”

Similar projects would be developed on a 327-hectare plot in Chegar Perah,

Kuala Lipis, Pahang and 323 hectares in Rantau Manis, Gua Musang, Kelantan.

The Agriculture Department said 543 hectares were planted with herbs in 2010 from 303 hectares in 2005, a hike of 11.93 per cent a year.

In the meantime, Food Technology Research Centre deputy director Dr Mohamed Shafit Hussain said Mardi was also increasing research efforts to produce herbal-based food in line with the increasing global demand. 

“Globally, the market for health food touched US$600 billion (RM1.86 trillion) this year. So, there is great potential for high income in this industry,” he said. 

Mohamed Shafit said herbal-based food made up 30-40 per cent of the food products sold locally and was expected to grow by eight to 50 per cent a year.

Mardi has produced several highly nutritious herbal-based food products using the latest technology such as Mas Cotek (Ficus deltoidea) tea, granola bars and nutrima juice, he added. — Bernama



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