KUALA KANGSAR: To create high-quality genetics in vegetable varieties and vegetable seeds, Enza Zaden, a Dutch vegetable-breeding company, has picked Perak for its first research and development (R&D) and highland breeding centre in Southeast Asia.
With 20 hectares (49.4 acres) of terraced irrigated trial fields, several greenhouses and tunnels for breeding activities, phytopathology research and farm support buildings, Enza Zaden is ready to develop new vegetable varieties that can attune to the region's market and climate demands.
Among the vegetable seeds that are being tested at the centre are hot pepper, onion, tomato, eggplant, corn, yard-long beans, watermelon, and pumpkin.
Launched by the state Agriculture Committee chairman Datuk Saarani Mohamad today, on behalf of the Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir, this initiative also received cooperation from the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA).
Speaking on behalf of Zambry, Saarani said Perak has emerged as the preferred destination for foreign investors to set up their business operations due to the country's pro-business policies, tax breaks incentives, competitive labour cost and excellent infrastructure and facility.
"The decision to locate the centre in Sauk here was established after an extensive study on the environmental requirements. Sauk is the perfect location for breeding of vegetable seeds.
"With this centre, we are aiming to change the conventional methods of performing agricultural activities to modern practices, which translates the national objective of introducing technology and innovation in the agricultural sector," he said during the launch of the Enza Zaden Asia's Research and Development (R&D) Facility in Kampung Biong, Sauk, here today.
Also present were NCIA chief executive Datuk Redza Rafiq, Enza Zaden chief executive officer Jaap Mazereeuw, Enza Zaden Regional Director Asia Pankaj Malik and Ambassador of the Netherlands to Malaysia Karin Mossenlechner.
"We are fully aware that the farmer's income is directly related to the efficient use of production practices which will result in higher yield; which will translate into better cash flow and higher income economy.
"What our local farmers need is well-adapted and resilient seeds that produce higher yields. We also want better seeds supplied to local farmers as good quality seed is prerequisite to good agricultural production. However, good quality vegetable seeds are hard to find," he said.
Saarani said one of the solutions that were introduced by the state government was to embrace the use of hybrid seeds in order to enhance the productivity of the agricultural sector, which gives opportunities for commercialisation of agricultural products and new business ventures for farmers.
"However, the presence of Enza Zaden’s R&D Centre will be purely dedicated for breeding of new hybrid seeds for varieties of vegetables and it is timely as the organisation will be offering new varieties of breeding technologies that are tested and applicable within the local environment.
"We believe that the outcome of the company’s breeding efforts will directly benefit the local farmers in the state and throughout the country. Most importantly, the world-class R&D Centre will play a much bigger role as it will bring new job opportunities for the locals to serve major breeding farms in the region," he added.
Meanwhile, Mazereeuw said the growing population in Southeast Asia needed more and healthier food, and this was where vegetables play an important role in making people's lives healthier.
"There is urgency in Southeast Asia as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that the total vegetable usage per capita per year was only 61 kg (kilogramme) compared to 145kg for the whole of Asia.