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Underutilized Fruit Species Conservation in Malaysia
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Noorlidawati Ab Halim and Nik Rozana Nik Mohd Masdek

Economic and Social Science Research Centre

Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute

Persiaran MARDI-UPM, 43400 Serdang, Selangor, Malaysia


Malaysia has an ideal climate for the growth of various varieties of fruits, besides being rich with a diversity of genetic resources. Most of these fruits are grown to tap into its high commercial value, either for direct consumption or for processing. Fruit species can be categorized in terms of its plant status, potential use and popularity. Generally, more than 370 species of fruits can be found in Malaysia and 16 species are classified as primary fruits, while the rest are new or rare fruits, which also referred to as underutilized fruit species. Some examples of underutilized fruits in Malaysia are Mangifera ceasia (locally known as ‘binjai’), Phyllanthus (cermai), Garcinia atroviridis (asam gelugor), Mangifera odorata (kuini) and Pithecellobium jiringa (jering). Most underutilized fruits are left within semi-wild conditions without any proper care. These fruit trees are mostly found in the village, for example in yards, in small orchards along with other fruit trees, or at the edge of the forest. Underutilized fruit trees are potentially commercialized as it contains high levels of nutrients and suitable to be eaten fresh or processed (Rukayah, 2001). It is worth to pay attention to the exploration and exploitation of these new sources of fruits to increase its economic value, and to ensure an optimal use of diversity of local resources. Production of these fruits can be commercialized to increase the income and living standard of the growers. The value of these rare fruit species which have not been exploited can provide many economic benefits to the growers’ livelihood. Therefore, conservation efforts for these indigenous fruits, combined with proper management could provide practical alternatives in the collection of traditional underutilized varieties of these rare fruit species, to provide diversification in agriculture production.

Underutilized fruit species

Underutilized fruit species are scattered around the country. These fruits have their own specialty and uniqueness. Many of these fruit species have not been fully exploited and no proper documentation on the status and distribution of them are done in the country. Raziah et al. (2008a) stated that there are ten rare fruit species (see Appendix 1) which have been identified as having the potential to be grown and can generate high income to the growers. Among the potential uses of these fruits aside from being eaten fresh, are that they can also be processed to add value, be used as salads and dressings, as a vitamin or food supplement, a source of medicinal value when other parts of the plant are utilized including the flower, bud, leaf or root, and for landscaping purposes. Table 1 presents the fruit distribution data for major fruit species, and other fruits (including new, rare and wild fruits).


Table 1.  Fruit distribution; planted, harvested and production, Malaysia, 2015

Source: DOA, 2016


Underutilized fruit species are mostly grown in the hamlet tradition, around the house (normally outside the gate or in the backyard), or in semi-wild conditions in the villages. However, these fruit trees are seen as decreasing because many areas have been used for housing areas and other developments. Thus, conservation and collection of genetic resources are important to ensure that the source of new genetic fruits is sustained. Government through the National Agro-Food Policy (2011-2020) developed strategies to promote the fruits industry by exploiting the potential of underutilized fruits that have received less attention, through: i) build up R&D to develop new varieties and improve existing varieties including plant resistance to disease; ii) strengthen the conservation of underutilized fruit for in-situ and ex-situ; and iii) reinforce the use of underutilized fruits functionality through ethno botanical and biochemistry studies. 

A study by Raziah, et al. (2008b), found that most of the growers surveyed were understood and had the awareness about the importance of conservation of biological plant diversity. They were ready to contribute more to any conservation efforts and programs undertaken by either government or private organizations. A selection by Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) and promotion by Department of Agriculture (DOA) can be made for underutilized fruits that have potential commercial value, as a reference or for research purpose. Conservation of underutilized fruits can be carried out continuously in several ways in the village, forest or places that have been identified as having a wide variety of plant species.

Strategies for enhancing farm conservation for underutilized fruits

Assessment of the diversity of different crops is considered important for conservation to take place. Recently, there has been some research conducted as an initiative to re-collect and maintain these species. These efforts provide great assistance towards the conservation of underutilized fruits. Considering the constraints and issues faced by the growers in conserving the underutilized fruit trees, there are strategies that could be implemented to enhance farm conservation and utilization such as:

  1. Collecting original, rare and wild fruit species in Arboretum for research or educational uses;
  2. Planting rare fruit species with a large canopy in recreational parks or forests;
  3. Encourage the planting of these species in small plots in the house. For example each household can plant one or two species;
  4. Train selected farmers on the management of underutilized fruit trees, pest management, and other needed skills. Encourage them to plant new superior varieties, and provide incentives to support poor farmers, as planting initiatives;
  5. Promote market for fruit landraces by strengthening the network between producers, traders and consumers;
  6. Plant species of underutilized fruits as an element of the landscape in schools, institutions of higher learning, playgrounds, hotels, etc;
  7. Plant suitable species in cities as street trees, for example on the divider areas or by the roadside;
  8. Ensure the existence of species by restoring these trees. Explore the possibility of processing underutilized fruits into products;
  9. For almost-extinct trees, special care should be made to prevent extinction. Impose fines for any individuals who are caught cutting or damaging the underutilized fruit trees;
  10. Disseminate information to increase public awareness about the existence of this species of fruits and their nutritional content; and
  11. Enhance of R&D activities on the collection, conservation and utilization of underutilized fruits to promote the fruits industry.


The underutilized fruits are very important for environmental conservation, socio-economic contribution as well as the development of the overall economy. However, this industry was abundant and left behind without government incentives for many years. Further research and development on the conservation and utilization should be carried out towards improving the usefulness of underutilized fruit species by understanding the richness of species’ diversity, and to ensure the sustainability of this species on farm. Besides that, on farm conservation for these home-grown fruits, if given proper management, could provide practical alternatives in collecting traditional underutilized varieties of these rare fruit species, to assist and complement the collection done by institutional organizations. Support and involvement of institutional users or agencies in the development of new fruit management is seen as capable to ensure the sustainability of this fruit species. Intervention and strategies proposed for the conservation and utilization of these fruits hopefully could increase the livelihood of the growers’ community especially in the rural areas. The conservation and sustainability of these fruit species are also important to ensure that the future generations will continue to exploit their benefits in the future.


DOA. (2016). Fruit Crop Statistics 2015, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Malaysia. Retrieve from on 1st Jun 2016

MOA. (2016). National Agro-Food Policy (2011-2020). Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry, Malaysia.

Raziah. M.L., Alam. A.R., Salma. I., A.Rahman. M., Kadijah. A., Ariffin. T. (2008a) Socio-economic dimensions on conservation and utilization of tradisional fruit species diversity in home gardens and orchards in Peninsular Malaysia, MARDI Report No. 208 (2008)

Raziah. M.L., Engku Elini. E.A., Alam. A. (2008b) Economic valuation of agro-biodiversity: Willingness to pay (WTP) for conservation of rare fruits species in Malaysia. Economic and Technology Management Review. Vol. 3 (2008): 13-22

Rukayah. A. (2001). Buah-buahan Nadir Semenanjung Malaysia. Second Edition. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.


Appendix 1

List of other (minor) fruit crops by local, English and botanical names

Local Name                                         English Name                                                      Botanical Name

Abiu                                                       (Abiu)                                                                     Pouteria caimito

Anggur                                                   Grape                                                                     Vitis Vinifera

Asam gelugor                                      (Asam gelugor)                                                   Garcinia atroviridis Griff.

Avocado                                               (Avocado)                                                             Persea Americana

Bacang                                                  Horse Mango                                                      Mangifera foetida Lour

Bambangan                                         Johey Oak                                                             Magnifera Panjang

Berangan                                              Chestnut                                                                Castanea

Belimbing Buluh                  (Belimbing Buluh)                                               Cucumber Tree

Belimbing Hutan                                 (Belimbing Hutan)                                              Baccaurea Angulata

Belunu                                                   Horse Mango                                                       Magnifera foetia Lour

Bidara Siam                                         (Bidara Siam)                                                       Jujube

Binjai                                                     Malaysia Mango                                                                 Mangifera caesia

Cermai                                                   (Cermai)                                                                Phyllanthus

Dabai                                                     (Dabai)                                                                  Canarium odontophyllum

Durian Belanda                                  Sour-sop                                                               Annona muricata L.

Gajus                                                     Cashew                                                                  Anacardium occidentale L.

Jambu Air                                             Water Rose Apple                                               Eugenia aquea Burm. F.

Jambu Air Madu                                                 Wax Apple                                                            Syzygium samarangence

Jambu Air Mawar                               Water Rose Apple                                               Eugenia aquea Burm. F.

Jambu Bol                                            Malacca Jambu                                                   Eugenia malaccensis L.

Jering                                                    (Jering)                                                                 Pithecellobium jiringa Prain.

Kabung/Enau                                       (Kabung/Enau)                                                    Arenga pinnata

Kedondong/Amra                               (Kedondong)                                                        Spondias pinnata

Kepayang                                             (Kepayang)                                                           Pangium Edulele

Kelubi                                                    (Kelubi)                                                  Salacca

Kuini                                                     (Kuini)                                                                   Mangifera odorata Griff.

Kundang                                               (Kundang)                                                            Bouea macrophyllaGriff.

Longan                                                  (Longan)                                                               Nephelium longana Camb.

Markisa                                                                 Passion Fruit                                                         Passiflora edulis

Mata Kucing                                        Cat’s Eye                                                              Nephelium malaiense Griff.

Mentega                                                Butter Fruit                                                           Diospyros blancoi

Mesta                                                     (Mesta)                                                                  Nephelium sp.

Nam-Nam                                             (Nam-Nam)                                                          Cynometra

Nona Srikaya                                       Sweet-Sop                                                             Annona squamosa

Nona Kapri                                           Custard Apple                                                      Annona reticulate

Petai                                                      (Petai)                                                                    Parkia speciosa Hassle.

Pisang Kaki                                           Persimmon                                                            Diospyros kaki Linn.

Pulasan                                                 (Pulasan)                                                              Nephelium ramboutan Leenth.

Rambai                                                 (Rambai)                                                              Baccaurea motleyana Muell

Salak                                                     (Salak)                                                                   Salacca edulis Reinw.

Sentol                                                     (Sentol)                                                                  Sandoricum koetjape (Burm.)

Sukun                                                    (Sukun)                                                                  Artocarpus altilis Fosberg

Tarap                                                     (Tarap)                                                                  Ertocarpus Odoratissairmus



Date submitted: Sept. 9, 2016

Reviewed, edited and uploaded: Sept. 9, 2016



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