5 Success Stories of Good Agricultural Practices from Malaysia
GAP certification supports sustainable livelihoods for farmers and fisherfolk.
Good agricultural practice (GAP) certification has helped farms in Malaysia to tap the export market and raise the income of rural communities. The Food Agriculture Organization defines GAP as a set of principles that promote sustainable farming and postproduction processes to ensure safe and healthy products.
Malaysia launched its GAP certification scheme in 2013. Malaysia Good Agricultural Practices (MyGAP) recognizes farms that follow best practices in agriculture (crop, fishery, and veterinary) to not only produce good quality products but also protect their workers’ welfare and the environment.
To receive the seal of certification, agribusinesses must meet the MyGAP standard based on the following 17 elements: traceability; record keeping and internal audit; planting materials and rootstock; site history and site management; soil and substrate management; fertilizer management; irrigation and fertigation; crop protection; harvesting; postharvest handling; packaging; pesticide residue; waste and pollution management, recycling, and reuse; workers’ health, safety, and welfare; environmental issues; record of complaints; and recall and withdrawal procedure. It takes between 6 months to 2 years for a farm to receive certification.
Participation in the MyGAP certification scheme is voluntary. However, importers of fruits and vegetables have made GAP certification one of their requirements.
Here are five success stories of good agricultural practices from the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan, which are all part of the BIMP-EAGA subregion.
1. Shrimp Farm Syarikat Warisan Hikmat Sdn. Bhd., Kota Belud, Sabah
Warisan Hikmat was awarded with the MyGAP certification and Fish Quality Certificate in 2009. It is the first farm in Sabah and among the earliest farms to receive these certifications in Malaysia, which allowed it to export prawn products to the European Union.
Wah Keng Jieng started the farm with two ponds for tiger prawn aquaculture in 1998. He later found huge potential in raising white shrimp, building 36 ponds on more than 18 hectares of land. Given the high demand in Europe and other markets, the farm increased the number of ponds to 76.
Warisan Hikmat is able to maintain its certifications with the continuous support, guidance, and monitoring of the Sabah Fisheries Department at the state level and the monitoring of residues at the farm level by the Fisheries Biosecurity Division of the Fisheries Department of Malaysia.
The MyGAP and farm-based biosecurity procedure saved Warisan Hikmat from the early mortality syndrome or EMS outbreak in 2013 and 2014. Following the MyGAP standard has helped the farm ensure product quality and sustainability, which it needs to compete in the international market. Good farming practices also increased its production to 1,800 tons per year since 2009 from 1,200 tons before the certification. It plans to raise production further to 2,000 tons per year.
2. Seaweed Cluster Kg. Lok Buton, Semporna, Sabah
The seaweed cluster of Lok Buton in the waters of Semporna district in Sabah was introduced to local villagers in 2012. The objective of this cluster system is poverty alleviation: to help poor communities in the Lok Buton area and in the e-Kasih (the national poverty data bank) to undertake the cluster planting projects.
Lok Buton has an area of more than 60 hectares. The Sabah Fisheries Department divided the area among the 50 participants, each receiving 1 hectare.
Good aquaculture practices in seaweed culture have improved seaweed production and have earned MyGAP certification for 48 participants. For example, the seaweed seed preparation system in Lok Buton uses special tables that have shortened preparation time and reduced pressure on the seed, which is a factor in ensuring the good quality of products.
MyGAP certification has opened markets for seaweed and raised the value of the products. The income of each participant has increased to an average of 2,500 ringgits (nearly $600) per month from less than 350 ringgits monthly.
3. Poh Lian Plantation Sdn. Bhd., Samarahan, Sarawak
The 51-hectare Poh Lian Plantation is the largest farm for leafy vegetables to receive the MyGAP seal in Sarawak, where more than 140 farms have been certified.
Located at Serian, Asajaya, and Sadong Jaya in Samarahan, Poh Lian is also involved in the wholesale distribution of its produce. It grows 15 types of leafy vegetables, including chai sim, bong kim pek, siaw pek chai, Chinese Lettuce, kiew chai, kai chai, pak choy, kai lan, cangkok manis, kang kong, bayam, and lettuce. It uses the block planting system, which makes its vegetables traceable to its farms or farm block. Its products bear the farm registration numbers. In 2018, it produced about 280,000 metric tons of leafy vegetables and sold certified quality vegetables through supermarkets in Kuching, Samarahan, and Serian.
Following the advice of the Agriculture Department, Poh Lian is reducing pesticide use and practices integrated pest management.
Poh Lian employs 30 workers (locals and foreigners) in four farms and a processing center in Sarawak. The welfare of workers is protected in the farm. All plantation workers must use protective clothing when handling pesticides. Workers are provided living quarters with standard facilities. They are also given proper job training.
4. Sustainable Bird’s Nest House Project, Sarawak
Bird’s nest is a high-value food product that is popular in the People’s Republic of China (PRC); Hong Kong, China; Japan; the Republic of Korea; and Malaysia. It is also now sold in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and the United States. It is believed that bird’s nest has aphrodisiac and anti-aging properties. The swiftlets that create the bird’s nest are found only in Southeast Asia.
Sarawak has been exporting bird’s nests as raw or processed products since the 1960s but started swiftlet house farming only in early 2000. The state requires licenses to build and maintain any structure for swiftlet farming, permits for bird’s nest trading, and compliance with environmental protection guidelines. No town land or sub-urban land can be used.
In addition to permits and licenses, the state is promoting MyGAP certification for swiftlet farming operators. So far, 121 swiftlet houses have been certified. Five processing plants are accredited to export to the PRC.
The government is also promoting the use of RFID tags to easily track the product from the source to the consumer. And it can extend assistance on simple bird house construction.
Swiftlet farming is generally sustainable because it requires a one-off capital investment and no special feeding. Operators need to regularly check the controlled environment inside the bird houses, especially temperature, humidity, ventilation, and the birds’ sound system. The potential monthly income per farm family is between 3,000 and 4,000 ringgits.
The Sustainable Bird’s Nest House Project attracts many investors from rural areas where conditions are ideal for swiftlet farming. Estate crops provide small insects as feed for the swiftlets and there is minimal pollution.
5. Kilan Agriculture Park, Labuan Federal Territory
Located 9 kilometers from the center of Labuan City, the 7-hectare Kilan Agriculture Park or Taman Pertanian Kilan (TPK) has fruit orchards, recreation ponds, incubator centers, and agrotechnology (fertigation and Set Pengeluaran Tauge Automatik) showcases as well as tourist and leisure attractions and facilities. Most visitors go to the park to obtain agricultural technology information or attend courses, trainings, or seminars.
Fruit orchards use soil conservation methods, such as terracing, to ensure the soil structure is protected from erosion. Pesticide use is prohibited to maintain the natural environment and to keep the stingless bee safe. Stingless beekeeping is a top attraction in the park and the bees also play a major role in crop pollination.
The Department of Agriculture Labuan provides a 3-hectare plot complete with irrigation system known as taman kekal pengeluaran makanan (TKPM, or The Permanent Food Park Programme) to committed and dedicated individuals practicing open fertigation planting systems.
The TKPM plot was developed in 2015 for the land preparation phase. In 2016, irrigation infrastructure and systems were developed and began operation in 2017. Two participants maintain the area. The program aims to establish a permanent food crop production zone in the Federal Territory of Labuan, which will help increase the production of sustainable and quality food for the country. In addition, it is expected to develop and enhance the involvement of entrepreneurs in commercial food crop production.
TKPM Kilan is seeking MyGap certification, which emphasizes food safety and the production of fresh food.
This article is adapted from case studies prepared by the Department of Agriculture Sabah; Department of Fisheries Sabah; Ministry of Modernization of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development Sarawak; Department of Agriculture Sarawak; Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak; and Department of Agriculture, Labuan FT.