The National Tobacco Board plans to set up two factories in order to to process kenaf, an agricultural alternative to tobacco.
Its chairman Datuk Mohd Zain Ismail said the factories, which are to cost RM 1.2 million and RM 2.5 million, are to be located in Pasir Putih, Kelantan, and Setiu, Terengganu.
"We hope the two factories, which are expected to be ready next year, will help the farmers in selling their kenaf output," he said.
Kenaf is promoted as a replacement crop for about 15,000 farmers who have been involved in the cultivation of tobacco for the past 30 years in Kelantan and Terengganu.
Its output can be used in the fibre and textile industries, and is considered to have good prospects in the world market.
According to Mohd Zain, another factory is expected to be set up by the private sector in Rantau Panjang. According to him, 300 hectares in Kelantan are currently under kenaf cultivation. About 20 per cent of the area is currently being harvested and will be sold to the private sector.
As part of the recently launched East Coast Economic Region (ECER) development, the board will help about 4,000 tobacco farmers to shift to planting kenaf. Over 10,000 farmers have started planting other crops over the past years.
"We encourage the planting of kenaf because of its high potential with the market price at RM 300 per metric tonne for kenaf while those processed into fibres are worth RM 1,300 per metric tonne," he said. (sra)