Wednesday, December 23, 2009

News - Sarikei (Episode 4) on Astro AEC, 20th Dec 9pm . Part 4

Pineapple Town short film attracts Sarikei audience.
(The body text is almost the same as the United Daily article)
Source: Sin Chew Daily, 22 Dec 2009

Submitted by Desmond Chen

"Short film on Pineapple Town attracts Sarikei audience," headlined Sin Chew Daily News. See Hua Daily News also jumped onto the pepper bandwagon and did a comprehensive review of this unprecedented TV coverage of our historic town with a headline that told a sign of the times, "Previously famous for pepper, Sarikei farmers switch to oil palm."

Previously famous for pepper,
Sarikei farmers switch to oil palm
Source: See Hua Daily News, 19 Dec 2009
Submitted by Desmond Chen

Sarikei, previously renown as the Pepper Village in the world, recorded the life of various dialect groups of Chinese over the last 100 years. From the earliest Hokkien to the Cantonese and then the Foochow and other dialect groups, the generations of Chinese had diligently farmed and didn't give up for for the society, culture and economy.

Source: See Hua Daily News, 19 Dec 2009
Submitted by Desmond Chen

When the Chinese ancestors sailed into the southern seas, Sarikei was one of the landing places. According to historical records, around 1864, the Hokkiens from Zhangzhou 漳州 prefecture level city arrived and started building houses with attap roofs for doing business along the Rejang River in Sarikei.

In the early 20th century, more Cantonese and Foochow continued to come to Sarikei for the agricultural industry. Sarawak was known globally as the Pepper Kingdom with Sarikei as the main growing district.

Interview with Mr Wong,
Chairman of Sarikei Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
Using backdrop of the ~100-year-old association

Source: Sin Chew Daily
, 22 Dec 2009

The key industry in Sarikei is agriculture. Due to the changing needs of this industry and the price fluctuations, the history of Sarikei's agricultural sector had undergone different phases. "In Sarikei and the surrounding Rejang River areas, the earliest produce was rubber, then pepper and now palm oil. The most famous fruit is pineapple because it is most delicious," explained Mr. Huang Liang Ming 黄良明.

56-year-old Liu Hui Dong 刘会东, one of the few people who persisted with pepper farming and has about 30 years of experience, lamented, "In the past, it can be said that almost every family in Sarikei had planted pepper. I started planting at 13 years old while I was at secondary school. At that time, my parents toiled and I tried my best to help." As an adult, he went outside Sarikei to make a living but came back to his ancestor's industry. Now he has about 1000 pepper plants and a piece of land used as a nursery.

The processes for black and white pepper are different. He said, " For white pepper, select the better quality peppercorns of similar big size. For black pepper, it does not matter because the the berry will shrivel around the seed when sun dried"

The white peppercorns, which command a higher price, are selected from better quality berries. Initially, the berries are soaked in water for 10-12 days to make the berry flesh soften for removal. The seeds are sun dried for 2 days to bear the white peppercorns.

The black peppercorns do not need to go through the process of soaking. Simply separate the berries and the stems in a machine and sun dry the berries to produce black peppercorns.

From 3 plants to 3000 plants,
Liu Hui Dong persists with pepper planting

The 45-year-old Chen Cheng Hui 陈承辉 is a farmer that still specialises in pepper planting. He reminisced, "I already had an interest when I was young, probably because my parents were pepper farmers. When I was 10 years old, I planted 3." From the original 3 to 3000 plants now, these are the fruits of labour of his wife and him.

To plant a pepper vine, stick a 12-foot-long wooden pole into the soil for the growing vine to creep up for sunlight. When it's growing, leaves are used to cover it to avoid too much sunlight from dehydrating it.

"When the peppercorns are mature, it's a busier period. They have to be trimmed from dawn. Time is tight. If the peppercorns are too ripe, the birds will come to eat," said his wife.

Pests are another headache. The pepper disease can destroy a whole farm. The volatile prices, the escalating cost of fertilisers and pesticides are all acid tests that farmers have to face.

Sarikei was formerly the Pepper Kingdom. Although the peak of pepper planting was already over, some people don't give up. They want to pass the delight from pepper planting to future generations. That's the spirit of walking out of the past into today and into the future.

To be continued ...


Sarawakiana@2 said...

How nice to read this...The episode is really good...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Blessed Christmas to you and your family.

Daniel Yiek said...

Merry Xmas to everyone!

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