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Teaming up to lift Sabah’s bioeconomy
Published on: Sunday, February 26, 2017

By Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau
An industry close to us Sabahans’ hearts is bioconomy.

The concept of bioeconomy revolves around sustainable economic growth using bio-based resources, and through science, technology and innovation to value-add economic activities.

The Bioeconomy Community Development Programme (BCDP) initiative is reflective of the need for inclusivity in our national development agenda. I have consistently highlighted that being inclusive means growth and wealth are distributed in a socially and economically equitable manner.

The economic outcomes would mean elevating the household income of the populace, addressing disparity of income and providing employment. East Malaysia would have an important role to play in rejuvenating the national economy through bioeconomy; therefore, more emphasis is needed to spur the bioeconomy agenda in East Malaysia.

Sabah for example, has a competitive advantage. Given its abundance in biological and natural resources, the state holds large and untapped opportunities for wealth creation.

Early this month, I visited the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (SEDIA) at the Sabah Agro-Industrial Precinct (SAIP) in Kimanis. The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) would be supporting the development of a biotech satellite initiative, the commercialisation of tea tree and an Herbal Medicine Knowledge Base.

As part of the Sabah Development Corridor, SAIP drives the biotech research and development, and biotech businesses in Sabah. I am confident of SAIP’s ambition to be a centre of excellence in agro-biotechnology.

Collectively these projects would allow us to carry out essential research studies, adopt and fully localise technologies to develop commercial crops in Sabah, and venture into new industries with the new knowledge and links created.

At the visit at SAIP, I noted that we could boost collaboration between MOSTI including its agencies, and SEDIA, such as with Bioeconomy Development Corporation (Bioeconomy Corporation), National Institutes of Biotechnology Malaysia and Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia. SEDIA could also leverage and participate in our flagship programs – Malaysia Commercialisation Year (MCY) 2.0 and National Innovation Creative Economy Expo (NICE) 2017.

It is timely to enhance the collaboration among bioeconomy initiatives, to identify more companies eligible for the BioNexus status, to encourage more participation in the BCDP. Sabah could certainly capitalise on the bio-based sector to spur the state’s competitives.

I am pleased to mention that in November 2016, a collaboration proposal was signed between Bioeconomy Corporation and BIMP EAGA Bioeconomy Development Holdings (BIMP EAGA Bioeconomy).

This is a significant step forward as BIMP EAGA Bioeconomy is the first state-driven company in Sabah to partner with Bioeconomy Corporation. BIMP EAGA Bioeconomy, a specially established vehicle, would coordinate all relevant bio-based projects in the state, linking and facilitating work between key state entities, communities and with Bioeconomy Corporation.

We will be witnessing some important developments and impact in bioeconomy in the foreseeable future.

For one, we hope to see the production of five million kilogrammes of raw honey by 2021, with potential revenue worth RM 300 million from the Borneo Honey Bee Farm Project an involving 5,000 bee farmers.

BIMP EAGA Bioeconomy and Xali Ptd Lte, a Singapore-based company, have also entered into a sales and purchase agreement that would secure the sales and supply of 3,000 metric tonnes of honey for three years, a strategic cooperation to ensure the sustainability of the bee farming project. Additionally, we have a Sabah Bio-Industries Roadmap in the pipeline to promote growth and sustainability of the bio-based sector.

The implementation of bioeconomy programmes in Sabah would continue to contribute towards realising the long term BTP targets of achieving MYR 48 billion in Gross National Income (GNI), the creation of 170,000 new jobs and attracting investment of MYR 50 billion in three years’ time. As for the BCDP, it aims to create and to provide job opportunities to more than 3,500 farmers in the next three years, each farmer with an additional income of MYR 4,500 per month. The programme also aspires to benefit more than 15,000 livelihoods in the rural communities.

We want to enhance the role and contribution of rural community towards the bioeconomy.

Based on a stimulated growth rate of 15 per cent, rural segments of the bio-based economy, including smallholders in agriculture and aquaculture, have the potential to contribute MYR 24.1 billion to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2030. This figure could be doubled to MYR 48.3 billion if advanced bio-based technologies are applied across the sector, of course, with the support of effective policy and actions.

The Bee Farming project is a fine example on how application of bio-based innovations could rejuvenate the agricultural sector and attract young talents to the farming profession.

More importantly, in the context of social development, bioeconomy could elevate the socio-economic standing of rural communities through new avenues for wealth creation.

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