ISKANDAR PUTERI, JOHOR, 13 MARCH 2018:  The tourism sector will continue to be the key economic driver in Mersing, Johor, which is part of the East Coast Economic Region (ECER), followed by agribusiness which has been identified as the next pillar of growth for the district.
The tourism sector has become the main contributor towards Mersing’s economy over the past decade, following the high-impact infrastructure projects and the “Rainforest to Reef” (R2R) development strategy implemented by the Federal Government through the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) in partnership with the Johor State Government.
“Over the last 10 years, the tourism sector has been Mersing’s main engine of growth, contributing 63% of the total private investments in Mersing to-date. While it continues to be a vital economic contributor, the agribusiness sector is seen as the next growth driver, particularly in the fisheries and livestock industries,” said Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, YBhg. Datuk Seri Jebasingam Issace John, after the ECER Implementation and Coordination Committee (ICC) meeting for Johor today.
The ICC meeting was chaired by Johor Menteri Besar, YAB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Khaled Bin Nordin at his office in Kota Iskandar.
Between 2007 and January 2018, Mersing has attracted RM1.6 billion worth of private investments. The investment has resulted in the creation of 1,710 job opportunities for the locals.
Datuk Seri Issace said over the past decade, ECERDC and the State Government’s inclusive, high-impact projects  and programmes under the ‘Rainforest to Reef’ (R2R) development strategy have played a pivotal role in increasing the economic opportunities for the locals, while strengthening the positioning of Mersing and its surrounding islands as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country.
These projects include the development of Mersing Harbour Centre, Medan Ikan Bakar Endau, the upgrading of roads leading to Endau-Rompin National Park, and the construction and upgrades of public facilities such as jetties and walkways at the Mersing islands of Pulau Aur, Pulau Sibu and Pulau Pemanggil. Moving forward, ECERDC has identified ecotourism in Endau-Rompin National Park, as well as tourism development in the Mersing islands, Tanjung Penyabong and Tanjung Leman, as well as Air Papan Kampungstay, among others, as key projects that will further boost tourist arrival in Mersing.
“In conjunction with ECERDC’s 10th Anniversary this year, we are targeting to further propel Mersing’s growth in order to generate more jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for the Rakyat, especially in the tourism and agribusiness sectors under the ECER Master Plan 2.0 which will be unveiled soon,” Datuk Seri Issace said.
“As we embark on Mersing’s next phase of socio-economic transformation, we will leverage on the solid foundation built over the decade by strengthening Mersing’s position as the tourism hub for Johor, which will also be supported by the new growth opportunities in the agribusiness sector,” he noted.
High-impact projects such as the Endau-Mersing Integrated Fish Processing Park and the Dairy Valley in Jemaluang will boost the socio-economic transformation of the local communities, whereby they are also in line with Johor Budget 2018 and aspirations of the Johor State Government to bring forward the agribusiness sector as another important economic driver to complement the vibrant tourism industry in Mersing.
“Moreover, the agribusiness ventures in Mersing will also be diversified to offer agro-tourism products, in line with its increasing popularity for family retreat and educational purpose. This will certainly add to the district’s unique tourism offerings for local and foreign visitors,” Datuk Seri Issace added.
The development of Endau-Mersing Integrated Fish Processing Park is expected to further strengthen the fisheries industry in Mersing, which has been a traditional economic activity in the district and to reinforce Mersing as an important fisheries destination within the next decade. The park will be fully equipped with the necessary infrastructure and support services such as cold room, ice factory, as well as factory facilities for SMEs for the production of fish balls, otoshimi, fish crackers, dried anchovies, and salted fish.
Once completed, the Endau-Mersing Integrated Fish Processing Park will be managed using the SME Park Management Model to lower the cost of entry for SMEs, and this project is expected to benefit more than 3,000 people involved in Mersing’s fisheries industry. In addition, the park will also improve product quality in accordance to international food safety and traceability requirements and certifications including Makanan Selamat Tanggungjawab Industri (MeSTI), Halal, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), all of which will inevitably boost the prospect for fish-based products being exported from Mersing.
On the other hand, the development of the Dairy Valley in Jemaluang will be another growth catalyst to support the agribusiness aspirations for the livestock and dairy industry. The project will involve the development of a commercial dairy farm on a 275-hectare area in Sungai Ambat, Jemaluang. It also entails the construction of a cow barn, milking area and milk processing centre, fodder for cattle feed and other necessary components to develop the dairy farm and complemented with agro-tourism activities. These facilities will replicate ECERDC’s Muadzam Shah Cattle Research and Innovation Centre (MSCRIC) in Pahang. Driven by private investments, the project is expected to produce four million litres of fresh milk by 2021 and create 60 new job opportunities for the Rakyat.
More importantly, the Dairy Valley project will also create spillover benefits for the local farmers in Mersing, whereby selected farmers will be identified and nurtured as satellite farmers in the milk production industry, thus increasing their revenue. New satellite farmers are also expected to be created, particularly among the Rakyat who are keen to venture into the agribusiness sector as a means to uplift their livelihood, following the entrepreneurial and upskilling opportunities offered via the project. The development of these new satellite farmers are expected to produce an additional 1.5 million litres of milk each year, hence improving the domestic production of fresh milk and reducing the nation’s dependency on imported milk.
In terms of human capital development, to date, more than 4,788 locals at Mersing have benefitted from initiatives under ECERDC’s inclusive human capital programmes such as empower ECER and entrepreneur ECER. About 90% of the participants are from the Below 40 (B40) category, who are largely involved in ECERDC’s empower ECER programme. They include 2,400 students under the empower ECER Academic Training programme who recorded a 67% increase in academic performance, and 600 adults under the Skills and Entrepreneurship Training, with 80% of them successfully becoming entrepreneurs after graduating from the programme.
Meanwhile, 355 participants of the entrepreneur ECER programme have obtained financing and product development support from either SIRIM, Maybank and Agrobank for their business expansion. On average, these entrepreneurs have recorded a 30% increase in their revenue.