Bank aid for ECER kenaf farmers

BANK Pertanian Malaysia envisages zero financing problems for
farmers who opt to replace their tobacco with kenaf farms under the East
Coast Economic Region (ECER).
The bank, which has been entrusted to channel the tobacco loan
scheme, said alternative financing could be offered or other
arrangements could be made to convert the present tobacco schemes to
kenaf farms.
“The initiatives are part of efforts to bolster the bank’s presence and
exposure to the farming community, especially those involved in projects
under the ECER,” its general manager Martini Osman said in a
statement on Friday.
Kenaf farming has come to the forefront because the Asean Free Trade
Area, which takes effect in 2010, will see Malaysia reducing duties on
tobacco imports, making tobacco farming here less competitive, the
ECER secretariat said.
Tobacco farming has been the bread-and-butter of many rural Kelantan
and Terengganu households for many years, it said.
Under the ECER, the target area for kenaf is about 10,000 hectares. It is
expected to increase the income of 10,000 marginal tobacco farmers
and create more jobs.
The kenaf plant can be processed into paper, clothing, building
materials, car accessories and biofuel. Kenaf seeds yield a vegetable oil
that is edible and high in omega antioxidants.
The oil can also be used in cosmetics and industrial lubricants.
The National Tobacco Board is encouraging farmers to grow the kenaf
plant which has huge potential while the Veterinary Research Institute,
Malaysian Agriculture Research Development Institute and Universiti
Putra Malaysia have set up a kenaf technical group.The board’s chairman Datuk Mohd Zain Ismail said an allocation of
RM68 million last year helped reduce tobacco farmers’ burden due to
Globally, kenaf fetches between RM700 and RM1,200 per tonne, with
China, Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar contributing 95% of global
kenaf production, which totals three million tonnes a year. — Bernama