MAFS targets export growth in agro fruits this year

Malaysia’s agro fruits, mainly durian and MD2 pineapple, remain to be marketed at a high value, especially in China 


THE Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) is targeting agro fruits export to trend higher in several foreign countries this year. 

Malaysia’s agro fruits, mainly durian and MD2 pineapple, remain to be marketed at a high value, especially in China. 

“For these fruits, Malaysia is targeting an increase in export trends to countries such as China, Australia and New Zealand, which will contribute to higher export income,” MAFS said in an email reply to The Malaysian Reserve. 

In 2021, durian became the main fruit commodity as the country produced 448,272 metric tonnes (MT) and exported 24,684MT in a single year, with 85,280ha of planting area. 

“The local durian is in high demand because it has a distinct fresh flavour and excellent quality,” it said. 

Statistics show that per capita consumption of durian is 12.8kg per year, while its self-sufficiency rate (SSR) reached 104%, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM). 

“This proves that durian production is sufficient to meet domestic demand and has great potential to be marketed abroad,” the ministry said. 

To cater for demand in domestic and foreign markets, MAFS will ensure that durian cultivation will be further enhanced. 

Pineapple came second as one of Malaysia’s most important fruit commodities with a great trading potential, especially for the MD2 pineapple — the sweetest among other regular varieties of pineapple. 

In 2021, about 375,423MT of MD2 pineapple were produced and about 16,428MT were exported with a planting area of 16,204ha. 

Its per capita consumption per Malaysian is 8.4kg per year with an SSR of 104%. 

“This suggests that the production of MD2 pineapple is sufficient and potentially large to export abroad,” MAFS said. 

Harumanis Sticks to Domestic Market

Meanwhile, for the Harumanis mango, MAFS said that the initial focus is to promote the fruit in the domestic market due to its high prices. 

“Over the past few years, the high demand from the domestic market for Harumanis has contributed to the increase in the price of this commodity. 

“This situation prompted entrepreneurs to focus on the domestic market rather than exporting the fruits abroad due to its lucrative prices,” it said. 

The price for Harumanis could reach RM20 per kg for farmer price, while the retail price could reach RM30 per kg. 

Local Fruits Expansion 

Other tropical fruits such as jack-fruit, papaya, watermelon, banana, mango, mangosteen and rambutan also have enormous potential for export, mainly to China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, the Middle East, Europe and the US. 

MAFS will also prioritise other local crops based on SSR improvements, such as tomatoes, chilli, cabbage, ginger and coconuts. 

“This year, the Department of Agriculture will be focusing on fresh mangosteen commodities to gain new market routes to Australia,” it said. 

At this juncture, implementing mangosteen crops across Malaysia has begun as part of MAFS’ roadmap to market and strengthen the fruit. 

“This is to ensure a sufficient supply of mangosteen once the market path is expected to be obtained within the next three to four years,” it added. 

MAFS also disclosed that the draft export protocol for jackfruits is now in the final phase, which is to be signed by both China and Malaysia. 

“Once the export trial is implemented and finalised, we estimate that the trend of trading jackfruits in China will increase significantly,” it noted. 

Besides the existing market routes, MAFS is constantly working to explore other international markets for new products. 

“However, market intelligence and cost research must be carried out first to ensure that the export of the new products will be viable and profitable to stakeholders,” it added. 

Initiatives to Agri Entrepreneurs

In demonstrating its commitment to developing the local fruit industry, MAFS has provided two incentives through the Fruit Crop Development Project (Projek Pembangunan Tanaman Buah-buahan) for both long-term and short-term periods. 

“For both projects (long-term and short-term), the maximum rate of the incentives that can be applied for is RM15,000 per ha,” MAFS said. 

The incentives can be applied for the purpose of farm infrastructure development, supply of agricultural input, farm machinery and equipment, technology transfer and equipment requirements for the certification of agricultural practices, as well as the provision of post-harvest facilities. 

“We will also provide various facilities such as advisory services and agricultural technical assistance related to land resource management, pest management, registration of plantations or export facilities in compliance with export protocols to farmers and exporters to strengthen their exporting system,” it said. 

The incentives and services are offered to all entrepreneurs and farmers which can be obtained at the nearest district agriculture office. 

On the other hand, MAFS is set to continue implementing the elements of Internet of Things (IoT), IR4.0 and agricultural mechanisation in agriculture projects to increase productivity and production, reduce labour consumption and improve farm management efficiency. 

Embracing Challenges 

Despite the aggressive target this year, MAFS remains cautious and is ready to meet the challenges put forward in the agriculture industry, such as logistic costs, input price increases, labour shortages and climate changes. 

“Farmers are expected to continue to feel the impact of input price increase that has occurred since 2021, as the price level has not decreased after several phases of increases from 2021 until last year,” it said. 

Correlatively, the increase in input prices will result in higher production costs, which the farmers have to bear and which will eventually reduce their incomes. 

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that Malaysia is heavily reliant on foreign workers, preventing the industry from being optimally mobilised due to a lack of manpower resources. 

“Lack of interest among local and young workers, as well as the low use of technology, have led to a complete reliance on foreign workers to work at the farms,” it said. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition