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Remember we have an obligation to ourselves
Published on: Sunday, December 17, 2017

By Datuk John Lo

Lest we forget or take it for granted, especially the Y generation, that economic progress, budget surplus and state reserves Sabah has achieved under Tan Sri Musa in the last 10 years.

I have written twice on these matters. Going forward into the future, there is much to be done so that Sabah’s economic future can be secured for generations to come. All Sabahans, irrespective of race, social ranks, economic status, must do their part to supplement and complement the Musa’s Halajutu vision.

It is only fair that we put in our efforts and not indulge in the “blame game” or push the buck to the next person.

Foremost, we have an obligation to ourselves to put in efforts to build up the prosperity of Sabah.

The other matter is that we have achieved substantial economic progress in the last 10 years.

Things now are much better than in the mid 1980s and 1990s. It is also time for us to look for quality of life, especially in the area of food hygiene and food security. Here are some of the things that we, as Sabahans, can do with some self-help.

To the majority of tourists, especially from China, Sabah is famous for our seafood. The seafood restaurants in KK and Semporna are full to the brink every night. Talk to any tourists from Shanghai, HK, KL and Singapore, they will rave about the freshness of our seafood.

Will they still do so 10 years down the road? I submit that there is a real and present danger of exhausting our seafood supply. This will hit our tourism, which is a cornerstone of Musa’s Halajutu and also our pockets.

Already, much of our best mud crabs, tiger prawns and fish like “under sea chicken” are diminishing in supply.

A lot of live marine exports from Tawau are only on transit from Indonesia. Sabah is already importing some lobsters which was plenty before. Supply of popular shell fish is already on the decline sharply.

Their sizes have become smaller. Can the relevant ministry and authorities review this situation and assure the public on the supply situation of our seafood especially which are the ones in sharp decline?

What do they intend to do about it?

Shocking for me to find that undersize female crabs [both mud and flower crabs] are being sold in big numbers in Sandakan central market.

If female crabs are not given a chance to mature and breed, where will we get the future supply from?

Indiscriminate harvest of young crabs, fish and marine products will reduce our future supply seriously.

This is like cutting our nose to spite our face. We must stop this practice immediately.

I asked the fish mongers why the crabs are so small, the reply was that larger ones are simply not available nowadays. It looks like the ominous signs of overharvesting are already here. Soon, we cannot claim to be a sea food haven. This will damage our tourism industry and most importantly, our own food security.

All advanced countries have stringent polices reinforced by strict enforcement and jail terms on harvesting of undersize marine products coupled with seasonal ban to preserve continuous supply for the consumption of their citizens.

This is the only way to prevent over-harvesting and ensure steady supply for our needs at reasonable prices and for tourism. Sabah must have these laws to secure our economic future and maintain a decent standard of living.

Time for us to stop taking for granted that our marine products will last forever. They will not. Sabahans should be very proactive in protecting our marine resources as they are important part of our food and economic security.

Our economy has grown sufficiently for us to focus on healthy life-style vis-à-vis the quality of food we consume daily. There is great concern among Sabahans on this subject matter, especially among housewives.

Daily common conversations of our ladies focus on where one can get formalin [formaldehyde] free fish or how to detect the existence of this chemical on the fish. In case you do not already know, this chemcial is used to preserve dead bodies. Can someone in authority inform us that the fish sold in the market is free from this stuff?

How can this chemical can be freely available?

I am happy to find that beef in the Sandakan market is all stored in refrigerators. The beef sellers told me that they are simple and not costly. I cannot understand why meat is still being sold in open air in KK with armies of flies attacking all the time. Why can’t KK follow the example of Sandakan?

Another common topic of the ladies who are always concerned about the health of their family, is the level of pesticides in our vegetables. Amusing to hear their speculation on how to select pesticide free vegies.

I can assure that none of their method is scientific. Don’t blame them as they only want the best for their families. We should ensure that our ladies can buy pesticide-safe vegies for their families.

I have personally spoken to some Kundasang vegie farmers who do not have the faintest idea on appropriate use of pesticide, and when safe to harvest for human consumption. Scary to be told by the farmers that there is no inspection or instruction on the use of pesticides. Pesticides are freely available in the shops.

The lack of systematic supervision on our long-term supply of food and its quality consumed by Sabahans can also impact on our heath which is most important and on our economy too.

If data are available, it should be disseminated widely to assure the public.

Following the example of Desa Cattle’s success story in being able to produce quality milk and other dairy products, a number of private sector enterprises have followed its example and are able to produce good quality stuff. This has great potential in creating a new dairy industry.

Likewise, durians like “mau sang wang” which are now the rave in China. Eating durians are being shown on prime time TV in USA too. A number of Sabahans intend to or are planting great acreages of durians because Sabah is nearer to China. To stress its economic potential, 1 container of frozen durian flesh can fetch as much as RM900,000.

Malaysian Government is actively negotiating with China on the importation of whole durian fruits.

The market in China is very large. The China market will be super large when durians are being used for manufacturing of food like durian biscuits, ice cream, drinks and cakes. The Chinese have a keen sense of innovation – they are steaming chicken with durian!

In the interest of Sabah’s economy and individual durian planters, we must look into quality and chemical control now before it is too late.

The relevant authorities, private sector players, especially the chambers, should establish collaboration ASAP to look into assisting the Sabah Government in formulating a set of policies of “from farm to table for consumers”.

In other words, we need to establish the Sabah’s quality brand on food and fruits produced in Sabah as the very best in freshness, quality and above all, chemical and pesticide free. Organic certification will command a hefty bonus price.

Sabah’s geographical location is ideal for the production of high value food and fruits for the Chinese market.

It is up to us to ensure our products are competitive, good quality and above all, pesticide/chemical free.

All parties whose responsibility it is to ascertain food quality must become proactive and perform their parts in this area. It is beneficial for our health and can be very good for our economic future.

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