Raub durian farmers who have been operating orchards without permits and frustrated over a land deal have been reminded not to take any drastic action, including cutting down their fruit trees.
The plea came from Tras assemblyman Chow Yu Hui, who said he was informed about a viral video of an upset farmer who had felled his own durian trees in protest over the impending takeover of his land.
On July 24, durian farmers in the area received a red notice from the Raub land office instructing them to vacate their farms within 30 days, or the authorities would move in to clear the land.
In a statement, the state government said growing concerns over huge areas being cleared to cultivate Musang King durian trees in Raub led it to appoint Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd to help put an end to unbridled deforestation.
“I think the farmer (in the video) is very upset and he is not alone, as all the durian farmers here are frustrated with recent developments. I was told the farmer is from this area and we are trying to identify him.
“My advice to the farmers is please do not rush and take any drastic decisions, including cutting down the trees. The durian trees are from years of hard work and slogging, so do not give up easily without going the extra mile to overturn the decision,” he said when contacted today.
Chow said he has assured the farmers that the battle is far from over and that they will continue to work hard until they get justice.
The video shows the farmer walking in a durian orchard, believed to be his own plantation, as he says in Cantonese that the land would be returned to the “new company” without any trees, and asked the company to grow their own durian trees. Several fallen durian trees are seen in the video.
Meanwhile, Chow said to date, none of the farmers in Raub have assented to sign an agreement with Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP.
“I was informed that a few farmers went to the company’s office to register for a permit to enter their farms, as they were informed by the Raub land office that starting today (Aug 24), they cannot enter the farms. However, they have not signed any contract with the company.
Last month, Chow criticised the state government for disregarding durian farmers’ livelihood by setting up Royal Pahang Durian Resources PKPP Sdn Bhd without consulting them.
He alleged that the state government formulated an unequal contract which would sideline local farmers and severely impact the durian industry, leading to a possible “Musang King crisis”.
Meanwhile, some 200 durian farmers gathered in front of the Sungai Klau market today, urging the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, who is also the Sultan of Pahang, to assist them in the land matter.
The Save Musang King Alliance (Samka), a group formed by durian farmers in Pahang who have no permits, plans to take out an injunction to stop any attempt to seize their farms.
Its chairman Wilson Chang said they had appointed lawyers and were ready to take the matter to court.
The Pahang government had announced that beginning today, all areas of illegal durian cultivation and other illegal crops in the vicinity of Kampung Sungai Ruan and Sungai Chalit, Raub would be seized by its enforcement unit.
This was part of a land legalisation scheme to resolve the large-scale illegal cultivation of durian in Raub, Pahang.
The farmers were given options to participate and sell their durian to a designated trading company.
However, Bilut assemblyperson Lee Chin Chen revealed in a Facebook post at 11.30am that, according to the Pahang government’s reply in the state assembly, the enforcement was postponed.
He still urged the durian farmers to be on alert in case of surprise enforcement.
Samka said in a statement that the farmers had always been ready to cooperate with the state government to develop the durian industry.
The group said they were willing to pay a levy for occupying the land in the past as well as utilising the land in the future.
The alliance is made up of about 800 farmers.
Holding photos of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah and chanting “save the durian farms”, the farmers urged the king, who is also the sultan of Pahang, to intervene in the land dispute.
They made the call at a large-scale press conference held by Chow and Samka.
Speaking to the media, Chow urged the Royal Pahang Durian Group (RPD) and the Pahang government to stop ignoring the historic fact that the so-called “illegal farmers” were actually encouraged into farming by the government.
The Pahang state government had previously announced that the land the farmers were illegally occupying would be leased to the Royal Pahang Durian Produce-PKPP Sdn Bhd (RPDP-PKPP) in order to “legalise” the land.
RPDP-PKPP is reportedly a joint venture between the Pahang royalty-linked Royal Pahang Durian Group and Perbadanan Kemajuan Pertanian Negeri Pahang (PKPP).
According to the RPD website, the president of the company is the daughter of the Agong, Tengku Puteri Iman Afzan Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.
Meanwhile, Pahang Agriculture, Agro-Based Industry and Biotechnology committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Soffi Abd Razak (BN-Benta) said the state government has adopted a rational approach to tackle widespread land encroachment involving the farmers in Raub instead of completely tearing down the illegal farms.
He said such action was crucial to bring an end to unregulated land clearing activities at government lands including forest reserve.
“Encroaching government land is an offence and the state government has been considerate when dealing with the issue in Raub. Although we have laws this has been happening for quite some time resulting losses to the state government and encouraging others to do the same (illegally clear government land).
“As stipulated under the law, PKPP was already planning to demolish the illegal durian plantations, but the Menteri Besar (Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail) wanted a more rational approach. We set up a special purpose vehicle instead to tackle the issue,” he said.
Mohd Soffi also called on state assemblyman, including those from the opposition, to support state government’s efforts to eradicate state-held land encroachment by providing the people with accurate explanations on the matter.
He also expressed the state government’s commitment to ensure the sale of Musang King durian runs smoothly including to the overseas market and that it complies with the Malaysian Good Agricultural Practices (myGAP) certification.
He said, one of the conditions under myGAP is that the crop must be cultivated on state-certified farms.