Sunday, February 28, 2021

Royal tussle over king of fruits

The Royal Pahang Durian Produce and Pahang Agriculture Development Authority are offering the farmers a 'win-win' legislation scheme which the farmers say will leave them short-changed.

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Durian farmers in Raub, Pahang, are locked in a struggle with a company owned by the state’s royal family for control over the popular Musang King variant, named by their ancestors who first began planting the trees in the area several decades ago.

According to Singapore daily The Straits Times (ST), the farmers who are unlicensed had been trying to legitimise their farms for 20 years now. In March, though, the state government granted the land rights to the Royal Pahang Durian Produce (RPD) and Pahang Agriculture Development Authority (PKPP).

The firms are now offering the farmers a legislation scheme which they call a “win-win” situation but which the farmers say will leave them with the short end of the stick.

Under the scheme, the farmers will be allowed to grow their durians which will be bought by RPD at a fixed price of RM30 per kg.

RPD says this will give the farmers an expected profit margin of over 200% as the cost of planting is only RM8 per kg.

The farmers, though, say otherwise.

For one, they say the RM8 estimate does not take into account the time durian trees need to mature.

They also prefer the fluctuating market prices which they say are more in line with produce rates which are sometimes unpredictable.

“A durian tree’s produce only lasts three weeks, and they expect the three weeks’ effort to cover the cost of the whole year’s effort,” Save Musang King Alliance chairman Chang Yee Chin said in the report.

He also told ST that the terms of the scheme would land the farmers with most of the liabilities while limiting their profit and setting unrealistic expectations on produce volume.

The scheme will also see the farmers, who number about 1,000, paying an annual RM6,000 for each acre of land used for planting before it kicks in next year.

According to the report, the RPD-PKPP joint venture was given land rights for 2,168ha, about half of which is occupied by the farmers who were told to vacate by Aug 24.

But the farmers are fighting the case in court, with the hearing set for Oct 28.

The ST estimates that 60% of all Musang King exports come from the area in question.

The Pahang royal family are the biggest shareholders of RPD, with the sultan’s daughter Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan listed as its chair, the report added.

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