By Jerry Francis
Survival of Ipoh’s Iconic Tambun Pomelo Assured
The Perak Government decision to grant a 99-year-lease to the pomelo orchards in Tambun is a logical move to ensure the survival of the locally grown pomelo, which has become synonymous with Ipoh.
The growers, cultivating the land on Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL), have been facing an uncertain future for years as they had no control over the land and many growers had been forced to vacate their orchards to make way for other projects, including the North-South Expressway. Recently, one of the last patches of orchards was under threat of being taken over for housing development. But, the state government had wisely revoked the order and prevented about 300 growers from being stripped of their orchards.
Zambry’s Good Move
Thus, Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir had with the stroke of his pen prevented a successful fruit farming industry in the Kinta Valley from dying and at the same time fulfilling the wishes of the growers who had been lobbying for land of their orchards in the past two decades. He had also corrected a “mistake” made by the state government some years back to allocate the land uniquely suitable for pomelo cultivation to housing development.
Man behind the scenes
The announcement was therefore greeted with cheers from the growers at a gathering in Tambun recently. What more, they are also exempted from back payment of the land premiums. And the man, who had been working behind the scene to achieve this, is the Member of Parliament for Tambun Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadziah, who is also the Finance Minister 2. He had been meeting the growers to hear their plights and complaints over the years.
Generations of growers
Pomelo or known commonly as ‘Limau Bali’ has been grown around Tambun and neighbouring Ampang for over two generations. Due to the quality of the fruit it has become well-known throughout the country and abroad. Initially 62 growers with a total of 285 hectares of orchards will benefit from this gesture by the state government and will receive their land titles within three months, while others will get their land titles once the details of those eligible are finalised. The condition imposed on them is that they must use 80 per cent of the land for pomelo orchards.
Mineral rich soil of Tambun
Ipoh pomeloes have always been a perfect “Buah Tangan” (gift) to bring when visiting relatives or friends out of town. It is so because the city has been synonymous with this citrus fruit for generations. Those grown in the iron-ore soil of Tambun and Ampang just outside the city centre are reputed to be the best in the country. The soil of the orchards, which are surrounded by limestone hills, are also rich in minerals such as calcium for the tree to thrive and produce the best of the fruits.
Acreage Decimated by Housing Development
These facts are well known, yet the state government had in the last number of years allocated the land for housing projects. The growers, who had toiled the land for so long, were ordered to move out. As a result, the once striving pomelo growing industry which supported thousands of growers, their workers and families, began to dwindle. And, so the area of pomelo orchards in Tambun and Ampang had reduced from 12,000ha in the 1980s to just over 140ha now. The construction of the north-south highway in 1992 alone resulted in the felling of about 1,600 trees belonging to some 35 growers.
It is hard to understand the logic behind the move by a previous state government when there is ample land for housing and industrial projects such as former mining land around the city. However land suitable for pomelo cultivation, so rich in minerals, is scarce.
The state government has, instead of protecting a striving pomelo industry that has brought fame to the city, given priority to housing in the area. Is it because the interests of some well-connected housing developers were being given preference over the welfare of pomelo growers? These are the grievances of the pomelo growers.
The orchards in Tambun and Ampang also hold tremendous potential for tourism as every week busloads of foreign tourists visit them. It has also come under the state’s tourism guideline of “one district, one product.”
Reprieve and Relief
Long time grower Mr Chow Sun, 74, who is also the chairman of the Tambun Pomelo Farmers Association, described the move by the state government as “a long wait that finally bore fruit.”
“I’ve been growing pomeloes since my father’s time which is over 80 years ago. For close to 30 years we have been asking for the land and now we have finally been granted our request”, he said.