In ‛Win-Die’ Situation, Raub Farmers Prefer to Deal with State

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The current arrangement gives the state a monopoly on purchasing their durian harvests, forces them to sell at below market price and imposes a hefty levy on the land.

Unfair deal with “ridiculous” conditions:

  • To pay RM6000 levy per 0.4ha
  • To sell grade-A Musang King at the fixed rate of RM30 per kg to the company
  • To produce 2,000kg of durians on 0.4ha
  • Pressured into signing contract with threats of legal action
  • Neither the state government nor RPDG has met the farmers

Troubled durian farmers in Raub, Pahang, want to negotiate directly with the state government rather than with the company given lease rights to the land where they have planted crops.

They are willing to hold dialogue sessions, provided the current offer to “legalise” their purportedly illegal durian farms can be revised to include fairer terms, they told The Malaysian Insight.

The Raub farmers, who have banded together under the Save Musang King Alliance (Samka) group, said they will not accept the current offer from Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd.

The current arrangement gives the state a monopoly on purchasing their durian harvests, forces them to sell at below market price and imposes a hefty levy on the land.

The company is a joint venture between consortium Royal Pahang Durian Group (RPDG) and Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Negri Pahang and has been given the lease and land use rights for 2,168ha in the Raub district for 60 years.

The move by the state government is purportedly to curb illegal encroachment of land for the expansion of durian farms. The state also contends that the durian farmers have been planting without permits, and the contract offered is a way to legalise their durian orchards.

The contract includes a RM6,000 levy per 0.4ha for this year, and to sell grade-A Musang King at the fixed rate of RM30 per kg to the company until next year.

This is significantly lower than the average market price of RM45 per kg, while the levy imposed will mean a farmer with 4ha will have to pay rent of RM60,000 a year.

Samka members said they were pressured into signing the contract with threats of legal action.

Group chairman Wilson Chan rejected claims that the durian farms are illegal, saying farmers had repeatedly applied for land titles and permits but were never entertained.

“We can never accept the present contract. It is not even a win-win situation. It is a win-die situation.

“We would rather work directly with the state government than go through the company. Pahang can still gain revenue by collecting rent and levy from the farmers directly.

“If they want to impose a tax on durian, we don’t mind. It’s better to work directly with the state government than go through a third party,” Chan told The Malaysian Insight during a recent visit to Raub.

Liong Kin Min, 63, a second-generation farmer, said the company’s offer has to be more reasonable if it expects farmers to support it, adding that neither the state government nor RPDG has met the farmers regarding the situation or to explain the contract.

He said he only came to know about the contract from another farmer.

“We are willing to meet and discuss this, but they are not. If RPDG is willing to offer a reasonable and fair deal, then we can look into it.

“However, if they are going to offer an unfair contract similar to what they have now, then we don’t want to deal with them. We will only talk to the state government.”

One-sided offer

Another durian farmer, Phun Khong Seng, 37, said RPDG’s other conditions are also “ridiculous”.

One of them is to produce 2,000kg of durians on 0.4ha.

“It is ridiculous,” said Phun, who manages more than 4ha.

“It is expecting each tree to produce at least 50 fruits and, from that, it expects 30 fruits to be grade A. This is unreasonable because the growth of durian depends on the environment and climate.

“RPDG doesn’t understand durian farming,” he said.

Phun said he would resort to poisoning all his trees if no solution is reached over the contract dispute or if he was prevented from entering his own farm.

Agricultural Protection and Development Association of Malaysia deputy secretary-general Eric Woo, meanwhile, said RPDG needs a better understanding about the nature of durian farming.

“What RPDG offered the farmers is one-sided.

“It offered a low price to buy the durians compared with the market rate. On top of the lower rate, it is charging a high levy. It is much higher than the state government’s own levy of RM50 per 0.4ha. This clearly shows there is no win-win here,” Woo said.

Last week, Samka and Tras assemblyman Chow Yu Hui revealed the terms of the contract, and on Monday, held a protest at the nearby Pasar Sg Klau.

Their actions temporarily staved off enforcement plans by the Pahang government against durian farmers without permits.

State Agriculture, Agro-based Industries and Biotechnology Committee chairman Mohd Soffi Abdul Razak said in the Pahang Legislative Assembly that enforcement action has been postponed after Bilut rep Lee Chin Chen, raised the farmers’ disagreement over the contract. – TMI