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Sunday, September 17, 2017

CHILI CONTRACT FARMING - A STORY


HAVE you ever wondered about the story behind your favourite bottle of Maggi Chilli Sauce before savouring it with your meal?. It starts out with the planting of seeds, and then cared for with sufficient amount of water and sunlight for the plants to grow healthily, all within a month. The plants then move into their vegetative phase for the next two months before bearing chillies. The chillies are then harvested throughout its remaining lifespan of three months and delivered to the sorting facility before being sent out to the manufacturing plant to be processed into your favourite condiment. The bottle of delicious chilli sauce would not be possible if not for the dedication and hard work of the people behind Kulai Chillies at the rural farmers in Kelantan. A group of city dwellers were recently brought to the suburban areas of Kelantan to learn about the various roles and efforts involved in producing a bottle of Maggi Chilli Sauce. Mind you, the chilli sauce may look deceptively simple, but planting the chillies is hard work. This article I share in "Anim Agriculture Technology" regarding a report published by local newapaper on the supply of fresh chilies as a testimony for chilies industries in Malaysia.

According to Nestle agricultural services manager Yong Lee Keng, chilli is one of the hardest crops to grow, regardless rain or shine. “In a bid to provide these farmers an increased source of income by helping them grow quality raw materials, Nestle Chilli Club (NCC) was formed in 1995 to work together with them. “The NCC contract farming scheme is a collaboration between Nestle and Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan Bukit Awang (PPKBA),” said Yong during a media visit to the PPKBA office in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan. Through NCC, farmers are given training on best agricultural practices to improve and grow quality chillies that meet stringent standards as well as exposure to sustainability and environmental concerns. In return, Nestle gets a reliable source of quality fresh chillies while offering a secure market to the farmers with a fair market price. Up to 90% of the chillies produced under this scheme are purchased by Nestle, estimated to meet 60% of Nestle’s fresh chilli requirements for its products. “The season for chilli planting and harvesting is from March to October as we don’t want to fight nature during the monsoon season,” said Yong, adding that the target quota for each season is 200 tonnes of chillies.

PPKBA general manager Wan Anuar Wan Ismail explained that the farmers harvest twice a week and the produce is transported to the collection centre at PPKBA office where quality chillies are sorted and their stalks removed before being transferred to a cold room. “We have five cold rooms with temperatures set between 3°C and 6°C to ensure the freshness of the chillies is preserved before transporting them to the manufacturing plant in Petaling Jaya,” said Wan Anuar, adding that it is best to harvest chillies when they are half green and half red as they will be fully ripen upon processing. The process of removing stalks provides job opportunities to villagers who are paid 20sen to 30sen per kg of good quality chilli. To-date, there are 80 farmers under NCC who produce a regular yield of fresh chillies across 32ha of land for the production of Maggi Chilli Sauce. After the visit to PPKBA's office, we met up with some of the farmers at Gong Kemuning, one of the areas where the chilli farms were located. Abdullah Said, 68, has been a farmer under NCC since 2006. He started with 1,000 chilli plants and now has a 0.6ha land of 4,000 chilli plants. “I harvest 8,000kg to 9,000kg worth of chillies a season which fetch about RM30,000 gross income. “With the increased income aside from my paddy field, I can support my family and grandchildren who live with me,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mohamad Nor Yusof, 61, who is also a farmer under NCC, said he could fetch up to RM12,000 nett profit a season with his 0.4ha land of 3,000 chilli plants. According to PPKBA, the cost of one chilli plant ranges from RM2.50 to RM3.00 perkilogram. Through the chilli-farming scheme, the farmers’ income has increased by approximately 70%. To pay tribute to the dedicated chilli farmers in Kelantan, the packaging of the locally produced sauce bears their faces and short stories. In addition, research and development efforts for sustainable and holistic farming practices are carried out at Kebun Dapur Maggi in Kampong Gong Kulim. Aside from finding new methods to improve the chilli crop, the farm also focuses on developing new varieties and soil improvement methods. Meanwhile, a total of 63 students from the agricultural club of SMK Dato’ Ismail were given 1,000 polybags of chilli plants in July, a collaborative project between Nestle, PPKBA and the school to educate the students on chilli planting.

Through NCC, Nestle is also collaborating with Lembaga Zakat and PPKBA to help needy residents at the 15ha agro-economy integrated Desa Alam Shah by giving training on chilli planting while purchasing the produce for Maggi Chilli Sauce. So far, 29 residents have received 0.4ha land for chilli planting, generating an average income of RM1,200 monthly. Nestle (Malaysia) Bhd group corporate affairs director Eliza Mohamed said initiatives such as NCC's ensured the sources of raw materials were fully traceable, which is in line with the company’s principles of responsible sourcing. “In a world where consumers are increasingly concerned about the traceability of products, our ‘Farm-to-Fork’ concept benefits both society and our business. “Underpinning this practice is our business philosophy of Creating Shared Value (CSV), creating a joint benefit for both our shareholders and society at every stage of our value chain, which is at the heart of how Nestle runs its business. “We believe responsible sourcing makes good business sense, and is a significant investment for both NestlĂ©’s future and our suppliers’. “Ultimately, it is about ‘doing well, by doing good’, and this long-term focus spells out our business philosophy". This testimony shows the contract farming in chili growing acivities are practical and succesful. Thanks.
By,
M Anem,
Senior Agronomist,
Kota Bharu,
Kelantan, Malaysia.
(22 April 2017)

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