Bamboo easy to grow, has great potential
Published on: Sunday, October 24, 2021
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The bamboo plantation in Tambunan.
THE Federal Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities launched the National Bamboo Industry Development Plan 2021-2030. 

This is the second announcement made by the Federal Government to promote bamboo as an industry, especially for export markets. 

The first announcement was by Teresa Kok who was then Minister of Primary Industries under the PH Government. 

She announced the establishment of a bamboo seedlings nursery with an allocation of RM10 million at Ipoh, Perak. 

As always only announcement was made and remained that way. Though there are activities to establish bamboo factories, there is no plan for the planting of bamboo.

Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin said that under the 12th Malaysia Plan, the bamboo Commodity Farming Programme will run from the beginning of this year until 2025, it sounds too late. 

She further announced that the government will provide soft loan as those given to the Commercial Timber Plantations.

Zuraida also claims that there are about a million hectares of bamboo cultivation in Malaysia. 

Sabah had 24pc or 250,000 hectares. At least for Sabah, it is not known where she got the figures from. Based on Google images, there is hardly more than a few thousand hectares scattered around Sabah. 

Even Tambunan which is reported to have more natural bamboo areas, there is hardly just more than a few hundred acres. These are scattered all over Tambunan. 

Being scattered here and there, it is expensive to harvest these natural bamboo. In addition, the volume is too small for bamboo factory.

It has been reported from time to time, bamboo with proper treatment is stronger than steel. 

Bamboo once converted into powder can be made into anything from household to motor car interior accessories and so on. 

However, to establish bamboo processing, say in every district, just take Tambunan needs at least 20,000 to 50,000 hectares. 

Only seven-year old bamboo can be harvested, turn into chips, dried and grind into powder. 

On bamboo powder, it has unlimited application and will replace plastic and, eventually, steel. 

Presently, according to research by University Malaysia Sabah, Sabah bamboo, if any being exported is only for power generation. 

The price is too cheap and beyond costs. Bamboo is a hardy plant. After two years of planting needs little care. Bamboo can be planted 100-200 clumps per acre. 

Based on written papers on seven years old clump bamboo can produce two tons of fresh bamboo and process into powder at the conversion rate of 50pc or 1 ton per clump. 

World price for bamboo pulp is around US$1,500 per metric ton. Bamboo powder should cost more. 

Sabah has few hundred hectares – vacant FMU areas can be planted with bamboo. What is needed is action and not just programme or plan.

Zuraida should also give Federal Government undertaking that, it will not authorise the Sabah Government to ban export for overseas market. 

Presently the Sabah Government bans Commercial Timber Plantation logs for export. Unless and until this is guaranteed by the Federal Government, no one in Sabah will undertake to plant bamboo on large scale.

Bamboo plantation will also give more returns than agricultural crops.

George Tinga, Tambunan

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