From Ipoh to the World
From very humble beginnings, the ‘kacang putih’ industry in Ipoh has grown not only to be famous throughout the country, but also into a multi-million-ringgit business . . . read more
Though no one is willing to say what the annual turnover of the industry is, a very conservative figure would place it at more than RM5 Million a year.
The various types of fried and baked beans, and as well as other items, such as muruku and crispy tapioca chips, are being packed and sent to various parts of the country every month. Some containers of the snacks are even shipped abroad.
While some families involved in the business set up their retail outlets in the front portions of their houses in Kampong Kacang Putih in Buntong, others have ventured into opening shops in the city.
The industry began in the late forties when six families of immigrants from South India came to settle down in the city.
They were from the Ettayapuram Village in Tamil Nadu. Their settlement, the original Kampong Kacang Putih, was located at the foot of Gunung Cheroh.
Initially, they started as petty traders selling only steamed lentils (better known locally as ‘kacang kuda’) which looked white when cooked and hence the name Kacang Putih.
They used to walk around with a four-legged rectangular wooden tray on their head to sell the lentils, and as time passed they moved on bicycles and are now using motor-cycles.
Relocation to Kampong Kacang Putih
After the Gunung Cheroh’s rock-falls tragedy in 1974, the traders and their families were resettled away from the cliff-face of limestone hill by the then State Government to the present village, which has since grown into a striving community of mainly wooden and zinc houses.
Gunasegaran, chairman of the Kacang Putih Traders Association, said that about 40 families were now involved in the business using latest processing technology.
The families are sceptical of going big and are happy with their day-to-day production. Currently, this is a demand or consumption based business, and the traders produce just the amount that can be sold.
They do not go into any marketing; customers including dealers come to their houses to buy their produce.
Gunasegaran said that except for one family, which is involved in the export, the others only sell in the local market. On the average, each family produces 500 to 1,000 kg of Kacang Putih daily and the quantity increases during festive seasons and about 40 varieties of snacks are produced.
Each family has its own recipe and the taste of the snack from each producer is different. Traders from Kuala Lumpur usually order in bulk and export to other countries.
Association treasurer Sivaragan said that he supplies raw ingredients, which are from Thailand, Australia, China and India, to the traders.
The price of the raw ingredients has gone up by 30% this year. However the producers are absorbing the additional cost to maintain the price of their snacks.
Checking on a few processing centres in the kampong showed that the living quarters of the families are separated from the production area.
The floors are tiled and neat, and the utensils and equipment are clean and well maintained.
The raw ingredients and finished products are hygienically handled. Health officers from Ipoh City Council regularly inspect the premises, including their retail outlets.
Factory Export from Ipoh
Former association’s chairman, C. Ratnasamy, invested about RM60,000 to set up a factory at the Silibin Industrial Estate in Taman Rishah in 1992.
The factory, Perniagaan Kacang Putih S.R., is now exporting its products to Australia, Singapore and East Malaysia.
His son Arumugam, who manages the business, said that he is negotiating with dealers in Indonesia and Middle East to expand his business.
The factory produces about 30 varieties of Kacang Putih and its daily output is about 3,000 kg.
Sendera Segar, who has been in the business for the past 12 years, conducts two-week courses on behalf of Kementerian Kemajuan Luar Bandar in Ipoh on processing Kacang Putih. The course consists of both theory and practical.
The course is free and is tailored for unemployed and low income Malaysians. He conducts the course when there are 30 applications.
B.K. Kumar, president of Indian Chamber of Commerce and son-in-law of late S. Paloo, one of the pioneers who started the business, said that the individual families are not in a position to set up their own factories.
The best solution for them is to form a co-operative and put up factory for the export market. The families can continue to produce in their houses for local consumption.
Kumar had requested the State Government to provide land to build a showroom and gallery and to gazette Kampong Kacang Putih as a Cottage Industrial Zone under its ‘one village one product’ policy.
He hopes the State Government and the relevant tourism agency could include Kampong Kacang Putih in the tourist map.
One of the stalls in the Bazaar Medan Jaya being built in Jalan Bendahara is being reserved for Kacang Putih.
Kumar also called on operators of tour buses to bring tourists to Kampong Kacang Putih to enable them to buy fresh products.
City Council needs to install proper signage and upgrade the common areas.
Currently there is no signboard for Kampong Kacang Putih.
The potential of the village has been overlooked for too long and without further delay the State Government needs to call for a round table meeting with relevant bodies including the Ipoh City Council, Perak Tourism Council, tour agencies and the traders to plan out the development of the kampong and tap into the lucrative export and tour market.