BornOil and Softwise Sign ESG partnership Agreement

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Partnership starts with development, management of grain maize supply sourced from local communities as animal feed.

To ensure a continuous food supply chain for Sabah and Sarawak and Malaysia eventually, the Borneo Oil Berhad (BornOil) Group today signed a partnership agreement in Kota Kinabalu with Softwise Sdn Bhd (Softwise) for the development and management of a secure supply chain of grain maize. 

Today’s signing ceremony was the result of months of intense planning and preparation to ensure that Sabah is assured of a sustainable and secure food supply chain based on ESG (environment, social and governance) principles.

The first phase of the collaboration is to develop a sustainable long term local supply of grain maize to be used for the local poultry and animal feed industry. 

Representing BornOil through its subsidiary, Borneo Eco Food Sdn Bhd, were BornOil Executive Directors Datuk Joseph Ambrose Lee and Georgia Suzanne LingamProject Director Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah while representing Softwise was its CEO Darren Lo.

Datuk Ambrose, a patriotic Sabahan who has worked tirelessly to improve the state’s wellbeing throughout the decades, said that the first phase of the partnership is aimed at increasing the production of grain maize in Sabah through community empowerment in a sustainable manner.

“This partnership is based on employing regenerative carbon farming methods to ensure ongoing sustainability efforts for Sabah. At the same time, this collaboration also aims to create jobs and opportunities for rural communities with the aim of elevating living standards and eradicating poverty throughout the state,” said Datuk Ambrose.

“Our main goal here is to lay sustainable foundations for Sabah’s food supply chain through a comprehensive system of interconnectivity among rural communities, small holders and corporations to realise an integrated grain maize production system enabled by a guaranteed offtake scheme.” 

Datuk Ambrose further said:

“We aim to aggressively promote the cultivation of maize as animal feed to reduce Malaysia’s reliance on imports. According to studies, Malaysia is estimated to import approximately RM6 billion in corn from countries like Argentina, Brazil, the United States, Pakistan and India. 

Upon successful execution of our approach to maize cultivation in five to ten years’ time, according to our estimates, Malaysia as a country then does not need to import corn. We can produce sufficiently for our country before also exporting such produce internationally.

What’s more, with regenerative agriculture, our produce would then be based on ESG principles. 

Farmers can also venture into carbon farming – essentially a whole farm approach to optimising carbon capture on working landscapes by implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and stored in plant material and/or soil organic matter – and potentially earn carbon credits for their efforts.”

Meanwhile, Georgia said that BornOil’s ‘star’ product introduced last year, Sabasco Chilli Sauce, has been overwhelmingly received in Sabah, Sarawak, West Malaysia – even internationally.

Georgia explained:

“This overwhelming response for Sabasco locally and internationally brought to light the various issues pertaining to supply of raw materials and logistics, including the moving of produce from farm to the market given the size and current infrastructure of Sabah. 

BornOil appreciates that, like our Sabasco Chilli Sauce, there are many niche products from indigenous local produce that can be developed commercially for global markets. That said, challenges like mobilising farmers and logistic need to be addressed and resolved.”

Datuk Raymond added:

“In addition to this, we are also unwaveringly dedicated to ensuring that all of our Group’s business are conducted with the highest adherence and commitment towards ESG principles. In this regard, all produce used for our businesses are sourced and farmed in sustainable and regenerative ways so as to reduce the group’s overall carbon footprint.” 

Through its US-based associate, Verde Resources, Inc. (“Verde”), various methods were introduced into the group’s plantation and farming arm, Borneo Eco Food Sdn Bhd of which Datuk Raymond is Project Director to ensure the feedstock for all the group’s business needs are procured using sustainable and regenerative methods. This is with a long term aim to position BornOil at the forefront of carbon farming in Borneo.  

Verde Head of Malaysian Regenerative Farming Initiatives, Adrian Lasimbang said that Verde has pioneered a sustainable approach to farming in the best interests of farmers, consumers, and communities. 

Adrian said:  

“Using compost as the base, and then adding the right amount of biochar and minerals, we can create regenerative compost that tailors to specific farming needs, which can replace synthetic fertilisers. This is the future, and Verde together with BornOil is committed to the reduction of global atmospheric carbon as Borneo and the world move towards Net Zero by 2050.

Verde’s innovative products activate biological life in the soil from year one, reduce farmers’ reliance on synthetic fertilisers, empower them to realise high yields, and are instrumental in sequestering more carbon into the soil.”

Meanwhile, Darren said that this partnership between BornOil and Softwise will focus on developing the upstream and downstream portions of this industry to meet local demands and for both states to become more self-sufficient with their food supply chains.

Darren explained:

“The vast land area and fertile soil in Sabah are indeed a great blessing for the people. Sabah can indeed become the ‘Food Basket’ for Malaysia in a sustainable and regenerative manner which is already deeply ingrained in our local culture and beliefs. 

We aim for Sabah to progress toward shared prosperity and self-sufficiency. Building communities serve as the building blocks for a better and more selfreliant Sabah, especially for our children, and our children’s children.”

Darren elaborated that Softwise has been working parallelly to develop agropreuneurs and engage rural farmers to breach the logistic divide between rural producers and city markets through its Shared Services and Outsourcing (‘SSO”) business model. 

“The pandemic has demonstrated just how important food supply chains are. It was during this period time that we started garnering local attention through various endeavours such as Kaki Kaki Kampong (KKK) and our involvement with Koperasi Wawasan Rakyat (“KOWR”), a registered cooperative formed with the aim of developing rural communities through agriculture by providing training, seedings, logistics and other support to these communities. 

Datuk Raymond has been instrumental in helping Sabah realise these innovative schemes in the best interest of the various communities involved.

Through KOWR, Softwise started our grain maize planting scheme involving rural communities and small holders in June 2021 to produce high quality fresh grain maize using non-GMO (non-genetically modified organism) maize and sustainable farming methods without chemicals. The response was overwhelmingly. And as more farming partners requested to participate in the scheme, more resources were required for the expanding scheme.” 

And with chicken being the most consumed meat in Malaysia – SugarBun’s top selling item is indeed its Broasted Chicken and as such, BornOil was very aware and concerned about the drastic increase in chicken prices in addition to the news reports of chicken shortage – the partnership agreement between BornOil and Softwise is the start of the development and management of a sustainable long term local supply of grain maize to be used for the local poultry and animal feed industry. 

As mentioned earlier, this collaboration was also based on employing regenerative carbon farming methods to ensure ongoing sustainability efforts for Sabah. At the same time, the partnership also aims to create jobs and opportunities for rural communities with the aim of elevating living standards and eradicating poverty throughout the state.

BornOil Executive Director and largest shareholder Datuk Joseph Ambrose Lee concluded:

“This partnership between the BornOil Group and Softwise is aimed at increasing the production of grain maize in Sabah through community empowerment in a sustainable manner.

Our main goal here is to lay sustainable foundations for Sabah’s food supply chain through a comprehensive system of interconnectivity among rural communities, small holders and corporations to realise an integrated grain maize production system enabled by a guaranteed offtake scheme. This collaboration will focus on developing the upstream and downstream portions  of this industry to meet local demands and for both states to become more selfsufficient with their food supply chains.

This is but the first step towards building an enduring, sustainable food supply chain for Sabah – and Malaysia. Upon the successful realisation of our maize vision, we intend to also focus on another important food – rice, and Sabah and Sarawak are blessed with our unique Bario rice which can be used to feed both states, as well as Malaysia.

Food for thought is this: 

–         According to the Department of Statistics (DoSM), Malaysia imported some RM55.5 billion worth of food products in year 2020.  

–         In the same year, DoSM stated that Malaysia’s exports of palm oil stood at RM52.3 billion, contributing 73.0 per cent of our country’s agriculture exports

–         Hence, although Malaysia is the world’s second biggest palm oil producer, the exports are offset by our country’s food imports.

–         Hence, doesn’t it make much more sense to concentrate on reducing food imports and grow a sustainable food supply chain – for Sabah and Malaysia?

–         That’s the premise of today’s partnership between BornOil and Softwise – and the start of creating a secure and sustainable food supply chain for Sabah, Sarawak and Malaysia.”

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