By Ahmad Erwan Othman
CAMERON HIGHLANDS, April 11 — It was like passing through a ‘ghost town’, that was the first observation from this reporter. The destination of public focus, Cameron Highlands is quiet after all premises were closed to the people in the effort of the government to check the spread of COVID-19.
In line with the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) since March 18, a Bernama visit to the highland resort area found it devoid of tourists and an absence of traffic jams unlike the norm especially on weekends.
Nevertheless, some local residents, especially farmers – namely, categorised as national essential service providers – were seen using four-wheel drive vehicles moving to and fro on the road ferrying agricultural produce for distribution to meet the national food supply need.
The vegetable Hilux is indeed synomymous with Cameron Highlands and it is a normal sight to see a laden vehicle plying the road in the district.
It was learnt that despite the businesses of some farmers plummeting up to 50 per cent, the output of vegetables which has become an important industry was as normal, except that they limited working time in the farms while farmers implemented measures to ensure the safety of their workers.
A strawberry grower, who only wanted to be known as Yusof, in his 40s, said during the MCO, he was forced to limit the working time of his workers until afternoon to accommodate the operational cost of his business, since his (strawberry) jam product could not be widely marketed.
A Hilux driver, identified as Yong, 33, when met said, the output of the vegetable industry was as normal and they did not have any problem taking out the agricultural produce because there were still demands from wholesalers.
This reporter was on official duty in Cameron Highlands yesterday. Normally, it is a no-no to return to the capital without ‘gifts’ such as tea products, vegetables, strawberries and pearl corn.
However, due to MCO, the effort to find the mandatory products ended in futility despite hoping and looking for an open stall along the road all the way from Ringlet, Tanah Rata, Brinchang, Terla, Kampung Raja up to the Blue Valley before returning home via Jalan Simpang Pulai.
Cameron Highlands is a renowned tourism destination and a major vegetable and flower growing centre in the country since the 1930s.
Overall, Pahang is the biggest producer of vegetables especially cabbage in the country on 2,770 hectares of land, to harvest 68,600 metric tonnes of produce, with the most output coming from Cameron Highlands.