Uggah (second right) presents the prize to a young winner of the buffalo race.

BATU DANAU: The Sarawak government has approved a grant of RM6 million to develop and strengthen the buffalo rearing industry in Limbang Division.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas announced the grant when he officiated at the 16th Babalung and Buffalo Racing Festival here yesterday.

Uggah who is the Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development represented the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the function.

He said the Limbang Division had traditionally been the state’s main producer of buffalo.

Uggah (second right) presents the prize to a young winner of the buffalo race.

“In 2000 there were more than 12,000 heads of buffalo in Limbang, now the number has dropped to about 5,500 head.”

He said the chief minister wanted the population to increase, and it would be done in stages.

“This will begin with the creation of grazing grounds within the next two years and the repairing of fences of the community paddocks,” he said.

He added that the breeding stock would be brought in and modern technology introduced to ensure better birthrate.

“I was in Darwin, Australia early this year to look at potential breeding stock among others. I was very impressed with what I saw…. some of the male buffaloes there were 800kg in weight compared to our biggest at 350kg. We will bring some to the state so that we can produce these huge buffaloes,” he revealed.

He added buffaloes had always been synonymous with the livelihood, culture and tradition of the Bisaya people in Limbang Division and the Orang Ulu in Bario.

“Under our rural transformation programme for the Northern Region Development Authority, it is one of our objectives for the buffalo rearing sector to be a major economic activity in the area,” he said.

Uggah (second right) receives a memento from Paulus (second left), while others look on.

Uggah also called on the people to pursue modern agriculture.

He said they could go for vegetable and fruit farming and listed durian, pineapple, banana, maize and coffee as crops of great potential.

“We plan to set up a collecting, processing and packaging centre (CPPC) to buy these produce from farmers. But there must be the volume for this to work,” he stressed.

On durian tree maintenance programme for Limbang, Uggah approved additional sum of RM1 million for Limbang and Lawas Districts at the request of Batu Danau assemblyman Paulus Gumbang.

He said besides the Munsang King variety, some local species too had great potential as export materials.

He also advised the Bisaya community to work closely with the government in transforming Limbang rural areas for their own benefit.

He also announced a RM200,000 grant from the Chief Minister plus his own grant of RM30,000 to the organiser of the annual festival.

Earlier the president of the association Antonio Kathi Galis said the Babalung festival is held after the harvest season.

The buffalo race was the highlight of the ten-day celebration which also featured sports and cultural activities.

Participants competing in the buffalo race.