RM2b lobster farm deal sealed
Published on: Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Kuala Lumpur: The agreement to set up the world's first Integrated Lobster Aquaculture Park (iLAP) in Semporna, Sabah, was sealed between Darden Aquascience Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants Inc, Nexus Sustainable Seafood Sdn Bhd and Inno Fisheries Sdn Bhd, Monday.The iLAP is expected to produce up to 40 million pounds of hatchery-based tropical Sabah native spiny lobsters when it reaches maximum capacity in 2029, creating more than 14,000 high income jobs by 2022.

A wide spectrum of skills ranging from PhD and Masters level scientists and engineers, to aquaculture specialists and skilled aquaculture technicians would be involved.

An investment of RM2 billion would be injected into the project.

Witnessing the signing ceremony at Shangri-La Hotel here, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the iLAP project is the type of smart partnership between the government and private sector that Sabah is keen to support.

"I wish to emphasise that we welcome Foreign Direct Investments from strategic partners that are able to stimulate the local economy and generate income for Malaysians in Sabah.

"Our cooperation with Darden Inc is timely as we move forward to unlock the potential of Sabah's natural endowments using sustainable methods," he said.

Musa, who is also State Finance Minister, believed it marked a significant milestone in the development of the aquaculture industry in Malaysia in general and Sabah, in particular.

According to him, the global market for lobsters is estimated to be over US$4 billion, or about RM12 billion a year with the Asia Pacific region, particularly China, accounting for about 75 per cent of the total market.

"This translates into vast opportunities for Malaysia and, in particular, Sabah, in becoming a major player in meeting the demand for lobsters," he said.

This 9,300 hectare park that is earmarked for Semporna would become the world's first fully integrated commercial lobster hatchery.

He said it would place Malaysia and Sabah on the global aquaculture map as it develops and transforms into a pioneering sustainable lobster aquaculture initiative.

The availability of high value products coupled with strong market demand will boost the income of those who depend on aquaculture for their livelihood.

"It is our hope that there will be a number of high-income farmers in Sabah's east coast once this project starts and develops," he said.

Musa also believed this collaboration would attract other foreign investors who are keen to venture into the food production based sector in Malaysia.

Sabah's worth as an investment destination is proven through its ability to attract approximately RM10 billion in investments in the first quarter of this year, he said, adding that it was the highest amount of private investment in Malaysia.

In addition, Sabah Development Corridor had received a substantial amount of investments totalling RM114 billion since its launch in 2008.

Musa said the project would not have become reality without the close cooperation of government agencies at both Federal and State levels.

Key players included Yayasan Sabah that looks after the state's interest and return on investments; the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry that leads in the area of biotechnology applications in aquaculture for business development and commercialisation; and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry that brings investors to Malaysia.

"The synergy that we see today is the result of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and other on-going initiatives to keep Malaysia on track in becoming a high-income nation.

"This project will help boost the bumiputera entrepreneur programme and the agriculture component of the National Key Economic Areas plan.

"This business venture has already opened an opportunity for bumiputera company Ever Nexus, together with Inno Fisheries Sdn Bhd, to successfully form a partnership with Darden Inc.

"This goes to show that effective participation of bumiputera entrepreneurs is achievable within the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and other national level plans," he said.

The target for the agriculture component of the NKEA is to raise the total Gross National Income (GNI) contribution of the sector by RM34 billion to reach RM49 billion by the year 2020, he said.

The programme identified sub sectors with high-growth potential, and aquaculture is one them, therefore, this project is creating new milestones for Malaysia's ETP, he added.

In this respect, he was pleased that the iLAP fits into the Sabah Development Corridor and the Sabah Development Agenda, or Halatuju.

"We welcome this investment and let me assure you that the Sabah State Government will give its full support in making this project a success.

Along with the Malaysian federal government, we continue to work hard to build confidence among investors.

"The current positive investment trend clearly reflects confidence in our economic fundamentals as well as political stability and level of security.

"I am confident that the iLAP project will become a catalyst for further economic growth in the east coast region of Sabah, and will create more high income jobs," he said.

Meanwhile, Darden Restaurants, Inc. Chairman and CEO Clarence Otis said expanding Darden's presence into Malaysia was a milestone event in the company's history.

"As Darden continues to grow, our business is expanding to new geographies and into new lines of business. Lobster aquaculture is one of those, and we believe it's an undertaking that holds great promise not only for our company and our planet, but also for the people of Malaysia," he said.

In addition to investing in lobster aquaculture in Malaysia, Darden also planned to establish a regional operations hub in the country to assist with potential future restaurant growth in the dynamic Asian market.

"This initiative aligns with Prime Minister Najib's Economic Transformation Programme and will have significant social and economic impact in Malaysia which is a point of great pride for our company."

"Darden has made a long-term commitment to developing lobster aquaculture. It's been a diligent process, and we're truly grateful to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and the leadership of Malaysia for their willingness to work with us to create an entirely new industry and ensure long term economic success and sustainability for all stakeholders," he said.

Dr Shahridan Faiez, Managing Director of Ever Nexus, meanwhile, said the Sabah region was the optimal location for developing this operation due to its pristine resources and suitable geography.

"We're very excited to be working with Darden on this ground breaking initiative that will promote sustainability while helping to meet the growing global demand for seafood and helping relieve pressure on wild fisheries," he said.

Darden Restaurants, Inc., (NYSE: DRI), the world's largest full-service restaurant company, owns and operates more than 2,000 restaurants that generate $8.0 billion in annual sales.

Its headquarters is in Orlando, Florida and employs more than 185,000 people.


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