MELAKA, May 28 -- The Malaysian Rubber Board’s (MRB) Rubber Research Institute Research Station (RRIMINIS) project in Jasin is being developed following a comprehensive and holistic study, taking into account various benefits to the rubber smallholders and industry.
Deputy Agriculture and Food Industry Minister I Datuk Seri Ahmad Hamzah said the project spanning 58.5 hectares, which was approved by the MRB in 2010, also took into account its financial impact on the government.
“The important fact about Jasin is that it has the highest rubber crop acreage in Melaka, covering more than 48 per cent of the areas under rubber and the number of smallholders is also higher than in other parts of the state.
"Jasin was chosen as the location of the project not because I am a Member of Parliament for Jasin, but because RRIMINIS has yet to be built in the southern region of Peninsular Malaysia compared to other states like Perak and Kelantan," he said in a statement here today.
Ahmad said the Jasin RRIMINIS project, which is now more than 73 per cent completed, would also serve the MRB Melaka headquarters to replace the current office in a dilapidated private house in the residential area of Bukit Baru here.
Ahmad, who served as MRB chairman from 2010 to 2015, said the board then believed that it was appropriate for a RRIMINIS to be built in Melaka since the first commercial rubber estate in Malaya was developed in Jasin in the 1890s.
“Upon negotiation with the state government, the project site was purchased in 2012 at a lower price of RM13 million and it now fetches over RM38 million -- a 65 per cent increase in value at the end of 2019. Hence, it is a good investment for the MRB.
“The MRB has set a ceiling price of RM30 million for the project's fiscal development, and that value has not changed until this year with the project taken over by a new Public Works Department’s contractor. As such, an allegation that the project cost has escalated is baseless,” he said.
He said the project, which began in 2014 and expected to be completed in 2016, was halted in November 2016 due to contractor issues, and a new contractor was reappointed by the government in May 2018 to complete the work.
However, he said construction stalled again and the contractor selection process was resumed and finally another contractor was re-appointed in February this year.
He said in short, the main problem for the delay was issues related to the reappointment of a new contractor to continue the project and its lengthy bidding process.
"However, despite the problems, the MRB is still able to maintain the ceiling price of the development cost at RM30 million and there has been no increase of between RM10 million and RM20 million as claimed by the former minister," he said.
On May 26, former primary industries minister Teresa Kok Suh Sim, in a Facebook post, claimed that two rubber research and processing projects approved by the MRB under the Barisan Nasional administration when Ahmad was the MRB chairman, turned out to be an unsalvageable white elephant.