DSP Jeffrey G Kitingan (centre) accompanied by Limbahau PPM Datuk Johnny Mositun (right) and My Kebun Vanilla owner Leo Komuji (left)
PAPAR: One man’s hobby of vanilla cultivation here has piqued government interest due to the crop’s high yield and added value.
Land surveyor by day, Leo Komuji, 50, has spent 12 years immersing himself in online research and trial and error so that he is now able to make a little over half a million ringgits in annual profit.
His customer base he says is an international one, with researchers from Europe and Australia arriving at his front door and him complying to their humbling requests of documenting success.
“Papar’s climate is perfect for growing the orchid second only to Kundasang in Ranau.
“Traditional cultivation methods can be practiced by virtually any farmer here who owns a measly acreage.
“I find it more lucrative than planting rubber or palm oil trees,” he said.
Many have attempted to cultivate yet have never seen fruition unaware of correct growing conditions.
“The plant needs the right amount of shade and proper irrigation in between Sabah’s monsoon shifts.
“Fungus and sunburn are its mortal enemies.
He said back in 2009 a Tawau entrepreneur in begun their venture the same time as he did but fell silent.
“I know of another in Jerantut, Pahang but they simply procure beans from another country for ice cream production and their patch is just for show to visitors,” he said.
He added that Madagascar is the worlds largest vanilla bean producer but hopes more farmers here follow suit and branch out into the global food and pharmaceutical market.
Currently he sells to South Korea, Japan and Australia harvesting every 9 months every mid year.
Sabah Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Datuk Seri Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan in a visit to his farm in Kinarut here today shared the same goal.
“This means any village folk can cultivate the cash crop even with a quarter acre of land.
“They need not worry of the market because the commodity is highly sought after needing minimal cost and maintenance.
“Just one kilo of the gross product is valued at USD300-600. A litre of pure vanilla oil is worth up to RM 80,000.
He said farmers with just an acre of land can house up 1000 tress while each tree can produce three to four kilos of fruit.
“The only drawback here is that pollination cannot be left to nature but must be done manually, although it is not a tough task,” he said.
His ministry is now tabling strategies to expand the industry.