Assistant Agriculture and Food Industry Minister, Datuk Bobbey Suan, said the two events, which are currently in the planning stages, will further enhance the State's agrotourism development and its trickle effect will benefit the tourism sector in general.
Replying to Gum-Gum Assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Edris during the question-and- answer session, Bobbey said the Ministry is well aware of the agrotourism potential and has made it one of its development priorities to promote and encourage this as part of product diversification.
He said among the various agrotourism products that have been developed by the Ministry through its departments and agencies include Sabah Agriculture Park which was developed by the Agriculture Department, Tagal System developed throughout Sabah under the Fisheries Department, Wetland Agro-Tourism Development at Weston Wetland Park in Weston by Ko-Nelayan, Keningau Livestock Farm by the Department of Veterinary Services and Animal Industries (Dovsai), as well as various other agricultural activities like mushroom industry in Mesilau, goat rearing in Papar and bee farming in Matunggong which have already been developed as part of agro-tourism packages.
Each of these agrotourism products developed by the Ministry offers a variety of activities that can attract tourists, he said, adding Sabah Agriculture Park in Lagud Sebrang, Tenom held three annual events which have already been included in the Sabah Tourism Board calendar, namely the Anniversary Carnival held every March, Flowers Festival every August and Baa...ke Taman kita every December.
For promotional purposes, he said, the park is also actively participating in exhibitions held at the State, national and international levels, like the Harvest Festival, Kalimaran Festival, Farmers, Breeders and Fishermen's Day, Malaysian Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Exhibition (Maha) in Serdang, Selangor, Sabah International Expo 2012 and Singapore International Orchid Conference 2011.
For sub-sector breeding farms, he said, the livestock farm owned by Dovsai in Keningau has been specifically designed to attract tourists to visit its dairy farm, deer farm and the swiftlets breeding and rehabilitation farm.
Bobbey said the tagal system is a unique, popular and most successful agrotourism product for the State, attracting local and foreign tourists, as they can bathe or play with a very docile Pelian fish to an extent of holding it.
He said the tagal system at Luanti Baru in Ranau, which was started in 2006, to date has attracted 200,000 tourists. The success of the tagal system founded by local communities has motivated the development of 25 others in Tuaran, Kota Belud, Penampang, Papar, Keningau, Nabawan and Tenom.
The Weston Wetland Park (WWP) agrotourism product offers river cruising activity to see the flora and fauna around the wetlands, he said, adding food packages, lodging and fishing activities held in collaboration with local residents are also available.
He said last year the park received 3,500 tourists, while up until July this year 3,400 tourists had visited the park.
"Agrotourism has a great potential to generate lucrative income for the State and because of this the Ministry will continue striving to boost this industryÉthe strategies to be implemented is to combine the existing agrotourism with other tourism products," he said.
To enhance the attractiveness of the Sabah Agriculture Park in Tenom, he said tourist programmes can be packaged with a visit to Butterfly Park and Rafflesia Centre along Tambunan road, the panoramic rice cultivation in Tambunan and Keningau, cattle and deer farm in Keningau, Tenom coffee enterprises, Murut cultural center, white water rafting and the tourists can also have a stroll at Tenom Gorge on their return using the train.
He said the package to Kinabalu can also be combined under one package with the tamu at Mile 24, Kinabalu National Park, War Memorial Park, highland vegetable planting, planting flowers and mushroom enterprise in Kundasang, Tagal in New Luanti, Sabah Tea Plantation and Poring Hot Springs in Ranau.
"Many more agrotourism packages can be created, particularly in the fishing industry in the East Coast.
Efforts are being made in the form of understanding and cooperation with tour agents in Sabah to make agrotourism products as part of tourist destinations," he said.