KUCHING (Sept 5): An Integrated Highland Agriculture Station (IHAS) at Long Banga in Ulu Baram is now under the management of the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development Sarawak (Manred).

A ceremony was held at the station in Long Banga yesterday to mark the official handing-over of the IHAS, of which the construction had cost RM30.8 million, to the ministry.

Performing the ceremony was Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who symbolically handed over the centre to Deputy Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Regional Development II Martin Ben.

Witnessing the event were Baram MP Anyie Ngau, Deputy Minister in Sarawak Premier’s Department (Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring) Datuk Gerawat Gala, Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismawi Ismuni, Miri Resident Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusuf, Manred’s permanent secretary Datu Edwin Abit and officers from the Highland Development Agency (HDA).

The IHAS functions as a bio-technology research centre meant to develop high-value downstream agro-food products for export. The station is set for collaborations with the private sector in such venture.

It is also aimed at increasing the overall food self-sufficiency in Sarawak with the planting of high-value crops and enhancement of the logistics support.

Moreover, the station would be used as a production collection centre, complete with storage and packaging facilities, for Long Banga, Long Beruang and Long Peluan areas.

In a statement Uggah said IHAS was conceived by the Agriculture Department when former deputy chief minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu was still in office.

Uggah said the station would also serve as a training and research centre for personnel from the Agriculture Department.

“The areas surrounding Ulu Baram possess immense agricultural potential.

“We can use the land with full cooperation from the owners, and the people (would be able) to fully exploit them. I am confident that Manred would continue to make use of its original purposes.”

Uggah hailed the station as ‘a game-changer’ for people living in the interiors in term of increasing food production through the utilisation of the latest technologies.

“They can earn better income to escape the clutches of poverty.

“The station too will be an ideal training place for newly-recruited staff, to acclimatise them to the very challenging rural scenario,” said Uggah in the statement. -Source: The Borneo Post