Friday, March 27, 2009

Bintulu ‘belacan’ to be signature product

LOCAL PRODUCTS: Fatimah (centre), Hasnah (fifth left) and others give their thumbs-up to Bintulu belacan

BINTULU: The famous ‘Belacan Bintulu’ which is in big demand in the state and the peninsula will be turned into another Sarawak signature product.

Assistant Minister of Agriculture (Home Economics and Training) Datin Fatimah Abdullah said since Bintulu has been known for generations as a producer of delicious belacan, it is time to expand and brand it as Sarawak’s best.

“So far as I know from friends and people who like belacan, no divisions or districts can challenge the unique taste of belacan made in Bintulu and this should be commercialised locally and internationally,” said Fatimah in her speech when visiting a successful belacan entrepreneur Hasnah @ Normah Zamhari in Kampung Baru here yesterday.

She said even though belacan is not as attractive as other food products such as ‘kek (layered cake) which comes in a variety of designs and colours, those who ate it would not easily forget the unique taste.

Therefore, the raising of the status of belacan Bintulu has been discussed with the chairman of Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) Datuk Talib Zulpilip, she said, adding that they would launch the product as a signature product in a special ceremony on April 11 in Jepak.

Fatimah who is also Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department (Human Resource and Training), said women engage in businesses were mostly involved in the food processing industry.
She said with Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) in development, there would be great demand on the food manufacturing industry.

Even during an economic crisis, the food industry is still the most important and secure because people still need to eat.

“Once the heavy industries operating in SCORE area are fully implemented, they would generate opportunities for the opening up of small and medium industries.

“We have yet to get the names of belacan producers in Bintulu, so my ministry will create a database of the industry as soon as possible.

“This is to make sure that all the plans and programmes get implemented efficiently to ensure that the demand for the product is still there and improving,” said Fatimah.

She added that what Bintulu need to do now is to have a consistent belacan production to ensure that the market can expand continuously and firmly without worrying about any shortage in supply.

“But as the product is dependent on marine resources like shrimps, which is seasonal, the producers need to find alternative ways to generate their income.

“One way is to add value to their existing products to turn them into competitive and marketable products,” she said.

As of now, she said, they had identified 12 successful women kek lapis entrepreneurs in the state and hopefully the quantity could be increased through the participation of local women’s entrepreneurs in Bintulu.

“We have kek lapis millionaires in Kuching and hopefully we will have belacan millionaires,” she said.

Hasnah was a local entrepreneur involved in small-time food production of keropok in 2004. As her business expanded, she went into belacan production.

She was given a grant of RM75,000 by the Agriculture Department to set up a factory.

After inspecting Hasnah’s food processing facility, Fatimah said one thing that entrepreneurs should remember is not to jeopardise the good name of Bintulu belacan merely for the sake of profits. They must always emphasise quality.

She also disclosed that her ministry was working closely with Mosti (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Malaysia) to create a more systematic and modern machine and techniques for producing belacan.

In other words she said local entrepreneurs must work closely with government agencies like Fama, Mardi and other agencies to improve and develop their products in terms of branding, packaging and other crucial aspects like marketing.

To have a benchmark of the best belacan product here, Fatimah suggested that some belacan producing competition should be held.

“It is important to have good manufacturing practice in food production to give confidence to customers,” said Fatimah.

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