KHM Strawberry & Jams
No 9, Taman Sedia
39000 Tanah Rata
The Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry first introduced the Satu Daerah, Satu Industri programme in 2002. The aim of SDSI is to boost the commercial development of products and services unique to a district to attract tourists to the area.
This year, Cameron Highlands is one of the areas to come under the SDSI project under the purview of the Agriculture Department. The other areas are Sepang in Selangor, for tapioca, and Hilir Perak for coconut. The programme's objectives include making Cameron Highlands the main producer and exporter of strawberries in the country; increasing the quality of strawberries and strawberry-based products; increasing the average income of growers; and making the strawberry industry the main agro-tourism product in Cameron Highlands.
One of the participating farms under the programme is KHM Farm located in Tanah Rata. The 10-year-old farm works closely with the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi). KHM rents a 2.4ha farm area, spread out over several locations, from Mardi. The farm also has free access to Mardi's food processing facilities and receives marketing support via the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama).
It produces six strawberry-based products – jam (its bestseller), ice-cream, acar (pickle), cordial, chutney and dried strawberries.
KHM holds joint research work with Mardi and one of the projects involved the implementation of the cold chain system four years ago. The system helps prolong the freshness of the strawberries.
"After plucking the strawberries by breaking at the stalk without touching the fruit, they are sent to a chiller initially set at 3°C for 24 hours," says Hj Khairani Mohd, owner of KHM. adding that the temperature is gradually brought up to 7°C.
The strawberries are then transported by road at a temperature of 15°C and once they reach the supermarkets, kept at 8°C to keep the fruits fresh for two weeks, or at 6°C to keep them for four weeks.
The strawberry varieties at KHM are Camarosa, Chandler, Elsanta, Diamante, Aromas and Festival. The brix level of these strawberries is eight to nine, which is still a little sour.
"In Holland (The Netherlands), most of the strawberries have a brix level of only six because of lack of sunlight. Therefore, Malaysia is in a good position to produce strawberries." says Khairani, 52.
Thrips and mites pose the main threats to the strawberry plants, says Khairani, and the farm uses pesticide and predator mites to counter the problem. Khairani also uses a chemical fertiliser called fertigation fertiliser, made up of coconut husks and perlite.
"The main factors for healthy strawberries are good pest management and limited use of chemicals. It is also important to have traceability of the fruits for safety purposes."
According to Khairani, a 10,000-plant farm can generate income of between RM5,000 and RM8,000 a month. He adds that there are nine big players in Cameron Highlands, each covering land areas of 0.8ha and above. One acre (0.4ha) accommodates about 100,000 plants.
Generally, there are three major harvests a year. However, Khairani says KHM has managed to implement a system that induces the fruits to produce off season, culminating in up to seven harvests a year. "We create artificial winter conditions and introduce hormones to induce growth," he says.
On average, KHM Farm's daily output is 200kg, which are sold for between RM20 and RM25 per kg. About 70% of the fresh strawberries are sold to hypermarkets and supermarkets in Malaysia, while the rest are for tourists in Cameron Highlands. -- The Star Lifestyle
(Source: Wong Liza (2009) Strawberry Fields. The Star Lifestyle, Monday, November 9.)