Journalist juggles career with growing Musang King

Khairy (right) and his wife (left) with James Sikah (center), Keningau Agriculture officer, at Khairy’s durian orchard at Sook, Keningau

KENINGAU: Mohamad Khairy Abdullah is still as enthusiastic about journalism but of late he has been taking farming seriously and in fact many people are already calling him Musang King Khairy.

For the past six years Khairy has quietly spent most of his time growing Musang King durian at his 5-hectare land in Kampung Sondukut, Sook, about 11 km from Keningau, in the interior of Sabah.

Khairy, who is a Bernama stringer based in Keningau since 2015 now finds himself even more attached to his durian orchard with 300 Musang King durian trees, which are between 3 to 5 years old and some are already starting to flower.

Growing Musang King durian was Khairy’s dream after clearing his idle land in 2014 but he could only start with five Musang King seedlings with a cost of RM175 as he was short of cash.

“As my newswriting output expanded coupled with earnings from doing other odd jobs, I managed to plant 400 Musang King trees by 2015,” he told Bernama.

“Unfortunately, in same year my durian orchard was almost completely destroyed as a result of an uncontrolled open burning incident in the neighborhood. I was left with only 30 Musang King trees.

“I was so devastated but my wife encouraged me not give up. I then approached the Agriculture Department at Keningau and they provided me with Musang King seedlings through an assistance package.

“I bought the rest of the durian seedlings in stages with incomes from my freelance writing with Bernama and by end of 2016 I managed to plant 300 trees,” he added.

Khairy, 57, who has been active in journalism since 1980’s, said he chose to grow Musang King because of its market potential not only in the country but internationally.

“I came from a farming family and I observed that all these while my parents were doing the traditional small scale farming, like growing a few fruit trees, vegetable and paddy planting.

“I really pity them because I have 11 siblings. I have been active in journalism for the past 40 years and yet I am still struggling, financially, so I thought I should start doing something much bigger, like going into commercial farming, so I decided to grow Musang King.

“I’m also very thankful to my wife, Rosana Edeza, who worked tirelessly along with me to help achieve our dream of cultivating a durian orchard and most of the time our two kids tugged along.

“She is also a computer literate and she browsed internet to source information about the technics of growing Musang King durian. I too read a lot of articles about the same topic and the information was very helpful.

“Now I know that farming is not an easy job and looking after a durian orchard is even more demanding because from day one, you need to treat the king of fruits as if they were your close friends,” he said and added that he is also planning to grow other fruits such as avocado, pumpkins and banana.

Khairy, who holds a Master’s in Communication and Politics, also juggles his journalism and farming career with part-time lecturing at Open University Malaysia (OUM) branch in Keningau.