KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will provide soft loans to encourage the growth of local bamboo plantation industry to reduce export dependence on major commodities such as palm oil and rubber.
Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said the soft loan would amount to RM10,000 per hectare with repayment of the loan to start after maturity of seven years.
At the moment she said, the government has been providing soft loan under the Forest Farm Development Program, but it was only eligible for rubber plantations.
“Bamboo planting is very easy compared to other commodities that require careful fertilisation and care. It can grow in many areas and will mature in just three years before harvesting.
“(With this soft loan), we want to encourage more people to plant bamboo for the downstream industry. I hope more private sectors will come in and work with the government,” she said after visiting an exhibition on bamboo products at the Parliament main building here today.
The time has come for Malaysia to explore additional sources of commodity income, besides helping smallholders and planters to generate additional income, said Kok.
Besides meeting the domestic needs, the country she said, could also seize on the growing opportunities presented by the international bamboo trade, especially in the Japanese market where the country was looking for alternative fuel sources to replace its nuclear power plants.
The minister said the contribution of the Malaysian bamboo industry to the economy was still low, with the export value of bamboo products stood at RM9.9 million last year, compared to the global bamboo market estimated to be worth US$68.8 billion a year.
Kok said her ministry in collaboration with the Malaysian Timber Industry Board and Perak state government is also developing 1.7 hectares of bamboo nurseries in Ulu Kinta.
She expects the nurseries would be able to produce 100,000 bamboo seedlings every month.