CONTRACT farming in the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) is set to get a RM60 million boost over the next three years.
The investments will be for, among others, the setting up of a research and development (R&D) centre for tropical crops, 30 greenhouses employing agriculture fertigation methods, and a collection, processing and packaging centre for premium crops.
Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) chief executive Datuk Redza Rafiq said the investments, which will come from a Malaysian-Japanese joint-venture company and a Japanese firm, are aimed at enhancing commercial-scale farming and export capabilities within the NCER.
"The biggest benefit from these investments would be the transfer of high technology," he said, here, yesterday during NCIA's business and working trip to Japan.
A memorandum of agreement was inked between NCIA, JBP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd, MRT Japan Corporation Co Ltd and Nepon Inc for the transfer of technology for the cultivation of premium crops such as melons and Japanese pumpkins.
The high-value crops will be bound for Japan, other overseas markets and selected Malaysian supermarkets.
Present at the signing yesterday were JPB Asia Pacific managing director Mazri Mansor, MRT Japan president Shiro Komura and Nepon chief executive officer Haruhisha Fukuda.
JPB Asia Pacific is directly involved in agriculture and the marketing of agricultural produce to local and foreign markets, with KFC outlets being one of its customers.
MRT Japan is engaged in the marketing of horticultural products in Japan and overseas, while Nepon is a systems provider for farmers in Japan, supplying hot air furnaces, heat pumps and carbon dioxide generators for greenhouses.
Earlier this year, JPB Asia Pacific and MRT Japan set up JPB-MRT Resources Sdn Bhd. JPB holds 51 per cent of the joint venture, while the balance is owned by MRT Japan.
Redza said the signing of the deal will see Nepon supplying its products to 30 greenhouses that will be set up in Ara Kuda at Tasek Gelugor on mainland Penang.
"The investments will be made over four phases. The first phase, which will take off soon, will involve the setting up of the R&D centre and five high-technology greenhouses for a total of RM17.5 million."
The second and third phases will involve investments totalling RM30 million for 20 greenhouses.
A RM5 million collection, processing and packaging centre will also be built in Ara Kuda, Redza said.
"An additional RM7.5 million is being allocated to cultivate master growers, especially younger locals within the NCER, to be farmers and, in turn, become specialists for certain crops and trainers in Malaysia and the Asean region," he noted.