With its rich biodiversity, Sabah is ready to serve rising global demand for healthy and sustainable products. The state’s natural eco-system is endowed ideal soil conditions for horticulture and a wide topography ranging from coastal littoral to high mountains, making it an ideal location to service expanding global demand for sustainable horticulture products.
Sabah’s main horticulture crops include rice paddy (currently over 40,000 hectares), coconut, pineapple, durian, and various other fruits (e.g. mango, pomelo, banana, jackfruit, avocado and rambutan). The expanding global agriculture sector has catalysed demand for sustainable horticulture practices, and Sabah is keen to exploit this by transforming into an agri-processing hub. The Sabah government has allocated 2 million acres for agriculture development.
Sabah offers an ideal environment for the development of the horticulture sector, including accessible coastline and river systems throughout the state, all with ideal soil conditions.
With its rich, unique, and diverse botanical heritage, Sabah is also a prime location for opportunities in floriculture. Tenom Agriculture Park alone is comprised of 1,050 types of plants from 107 plant families. Situated on a 200-hectare site located at Lagud, Sebrang, the park serves as a place for education and training for agriculture, horticulture, landscaping, and seed production. Sabah currently produces significant quantities of flowers including orchids, caladium, ixora, and bougainvillea.
To service growing regional and international interest in high-end horticulture products, Sabah offers eco-tourism products to highlight its diversity within the sector. The Sabah Flower Festival held annually at Tenom Agriculture Park receives both local and international visitors.
The Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) satellite campus in Sandakan focuses on research and development of new horticulture processing technologies to enhance efficiencies.
In 2021 the worldwide greenhouse horticulture market was valued at USD$30 billion and is expected to increase at 9 percent CAGR over the next five years. This growth will be driven by the surge in demand for protected crop cultivation across the globe, along with a rising need to extend cropping seasons to feed growing populations with crops that need protection from climatic conditions and pests.
As part of its initiative to increase implementation of smart agriculture in Sabah, the Malaysia Agricultural Research and Development Institute is promoting technology transfers to modernise fertigation cultivation systems for products like rockmelon, ginger, tomato, and cherry tomato produce to cultivate higher quality local produce.
Linaco Group of companies, Malaysia’s leading producer of coconut based products is committed to invest and develop a 2,000 hectares coconut based manufacturing facility in Paitan, Sugud and another 4,000 hectares for a large scale high-yield coconut plantations. The project is estimated initial investment of RM200 million and is expected to provide 4,250 job opportunities.
Recent Investment Activity
The Sabah Fruit Processing Centre is currently being constructed at the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park at a cost of USD$1.2 million. The centre will serve as a collection and processing hub for locally grown fruits, and cater to export markets’ demand for durian, pomelo, coconut, papaya, banana and pineapple. Upon completion, the complex is projected to handle up to 21,000 metric tonnes of fruit with a value of UDS$29.42 million annually.
Established in 2020, NutriBah has been utilising a farm-to-table model to spearhead their sustainable farming efforts, combined with a smart organic farming system and Internet of Things technology. The company currently operates 6 organic farms spread throughout Sabah with a combined area of 405 acres.
The 7-hectare Green Os farm at Kinarut produces various vegetables such as red spinach, Chinese mustard, red coral lettuce, long beans, basil and dill, which is sold in multiple supermarkets across Sabah. The Department of Agriculture Sabah has certified the farm as fully organic using no pesticides or chemical fertilisers.
1. MAFI focusing on optimizing Sabah’s potential as agrofood production hub, The Edge Markets, 16 November 2021