Fama rescues Cameron Highlands' tomato farmers

KUALA LUMPUR - The Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) has come to the rescue of Cameron Highlands' tomato farmers who are facing a glut in the supply.

Since the end of last month, Fama had bought 110 tonnes of tomatoes from the farmers for sale at its outlets nationwide, said its director-general, Datuk Ahmad Ishak.

The produce was sold, among others, at pasar tani, Agrobazaar Kedai Rakyat (AKM) and 10 Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) in the Klang Valley.

"This has led to an increase in the price of tomatoes from 20 to 30 sen to 80 sen and RM1.20 (S$0.46) per kg."

Ahmad said oversupply of the produce was common during this period of time. "The cold weather in the past few months caused tomatoes to grow rapidly, compounded by the slow export market."

He said the produce were exported to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai before the glut.

"Exports were slow when some countries started to turn to their neighbours for supply like Dubai, which is getting its stocks from Jordan and Egypt.

"Fama would continue to monitor the situation to help the farmers."

Federation of Malaysian Vegetable Growers Association secretary-general Chay Ee Mong Monday said the glut of the highlands' daily output since last month had caused the price of tomatoes to drop considerably.

"However, the price has started to go up slowly as exports of the produce have resumed since the last few days."

In Cameron Highlands, farmers said they had no choice but to resort to destroying the produce to cut down on their losses.

One of the affected farmers, who wished to be known as Choo, 63, said he had been allowing his tomato plants to wither since the price of tomatoes went rock bottom since last month.

"I have started removing the trees by the roots two weeks ago," he said here yesterday.

Choo, who plants only tomatoes on his 1.2ha farm at Kampung Raja, said this was the worst period in his 10 years of farming tomatoes.

"I was told the last time the price of tomates was this low was about 20 years ago."

When asked to estimate his losses, Choo said: "All my sweat and tears are gone".

The New Straits Times reported yesterday that since last month, 100 tonnes of tomatoes had gone to waste due to excess in supply. Cameron Highlands is capable of producing 300 tonnes of tomatoes daily.

Besides being exported to Singapore, the tomatoes are also sold at local markets.

Kuan Ting Woon, 46, said he had destroyed 20 per cent of his tomato plants in Lojing since the price plunged.

Another farmer, who declined to be named, said the price of tomatoes had started to show signs of increase.

"Today, the price has increased to RM1 per kg. I hope the price will remain, or better still, increase in the next few days," said the farmer who runs a farm in Sungai Palas. Additional reporting by Sylvia Looi