Raub durian farmers frustrated over land deal taking matters into own hands

RAUB: Durian farmers near here who have been operating orchards without permits have been reminded not to take any drastic action, including cutting down their fruit trees.

The plea came from Tras assemblyman Chow Yu Hui, who said he was informed about a viral video of an upset farmer who had felled his own durian trees in protest over the impending takeover of his land.

On July 24, durian farmers in the area received a red notice from the Raub land office instructing them to vacate their farms within 30 days, or the authorities would move in to clear the land.

In a statement, the state government said growing concerns over huge areas being cleared to cultivate Musang King durian trees in Raub led it to appoint Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd to help put an end to unbridled deforestation.

This led to some 200 durian farmers to gather in front of the Sungai Klau market today, urging the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, who is also the Sultan of Pahang, to assist them in the land matter.

"I think the farmer (in the video) is very upset and he is not alone, as all the durian farmers here are frustrated with recent developments. I was told the farmer is from this area and we are trying to identify him.

"My advice to the farmers is please do not rush and take any drastic decisions, including cutting down the trees. The durian trees are from years of hard work and slogging so do not give up easily without going the extra mile to overturn the decision," he said when contacted today.

Chow said he has assured the farmers that the battle is far from over and that they will continue to work hard until they get justice.

The video shows the farmer walking in a durian orchard, believed to be his own plantation, as he says in Cantonese that the land would be returned to the "new company" without any trees, and asked the company to grow their own durian trees. Several fallen durian trees are seen in the video.

Meanwhile, Chow said to date, none of the farmers in Raub have assented to sign an agreement with Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP.

"I was informed that a few farmers went to the company's office to register for a permit to enter their farms, as they were informed by the Raub land office that starting today (Aug 24), they cannot enter the farms. However, they have not signed any contract with the company.

In a statement today, the Save Musang King Alliance (Samka) dismissed claims by Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP during an interview with a news portal that their aim is to prevent the growing influence of foreign-backed players in the local durian market.

"We would like to ask RPD which foreign investor is controlling the market and the durian prices? It appears that the statement has no basis, as the durian prices are determined by the supply and demand in the open market.

"If the company says their agreement is fair to everyone, why don't they meet the farmers in Sungai Ruan, Sungai Klau, Tras and other areas for a dialogue session... they should come clean," read the statement.

Last month, Chow criticised the state government for disregarding durian farmers' livelihood by setting up Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd without consulting them.

He alleged that the state government formulated an unequal contract which would sideline local farmers and severely impact the durian industry, leading to a possible "Musang King crisis".

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