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The cantik plant you bought online might be illegal. Here’s why Msia doesn’t allow them

If there is one thing we noticed about Malaysians, it’s that many of us have turned to gardening to fill in our time at home during the MCO. The people at CILISOS are no different.

And while this hobby may seem pretty harmless, we recently found out some unpleasant news for the gardening community. Just a few weeks back, a lady was arrested by the authorities for attempting to smuggle ornamental plants worth RM102,000 into Malaysia!

The smuggled plant. Img from NST

However, it seems like she’s not the only one.

 

Many decorative plants are being smuggled into Malaysia

Aside from the lady in the intro, we also found several other news about attempts to smuggle decorative plants in Malaysia. And this does not only involve individuals but also companies.

Some news headlines from NST and Harian Metro.

Based on the news report we found, the Department of Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (MAQIS) have seized approximately 29,000 units of decorative plants that were smuggled into Malaysia in 2019. We couldn’t find any exact statistics on this and we’re still waiting for a response from MAQIS about this. 

Now, this is a bit odd considering Malaysia is one of the major exporters of cut flowers like Orchids, Chrysanthemum and Carnation in the whole wide world. But there may be an explanation to this.

According to a study conducted by a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore and Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, it seems as though many decorative plants are being smuggled within Southeast Asian countries. And most of them went unreported.

Although the study was conducted to look into such cases in Thailand, the researchers also noted that the increasing demand for decorative plants from Southeast Asian countries is one of the driving factors of domestic, regional and global decorative plant smuggling. And this may be true seeing how most of the reported smuggling cases in Malaysia came from Thailand although these plants might also be smuggled from other places.

While Orchids is the most well-known decorative plant that is being smuggled almost everywhere (a scientist was even jailed for smuggling it out of Malaysia in 2006!), MAQIS have reportedly seized other types of decorative plants like these gais…

Pictures are only to show the types of plants that were smuggled into Malaysia. Images from Wikipedia, Plants for a Future, Shopee and Green Foresto.

Anyways, smuggling anything, including plants, in Malaysia is considered a serious offence and…

 

You can be jailed for 6 months or fined RM100,000

Just in case you don’t know, importing or bringing in decorative plants without a permit and proper documentation is an offence under Section 11 (1) of the Quarantine and Inspection Services Act 2011 (Act 728). And you can be fined not more than RM100,000 or jailed for not more than six months or both.

This includes bringing any part of the living plants – stem, flower or even seeds – from anywhere around the world into Malaysia. As a matter of fact, you can’t simply bring in these plants into Sabah without a permit although they are from Labuan.

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The reason why the Department of Agriculture (DOA) is making it so mafan to bring these plants into Malaysia is to prevent the entry and spread of pests, diseases and invasive species that could disrupt the existing ecosystem in Malaysia. We’ve written about invasive species before and you can read them up here and here.

This isn’t a field but a supposed river covered with those ferns. Img from Wildlife Management Pro

Former director of the Sabah Agricultural Department, Idrus Shafie, highlighted that invasive species could also cost the govt a LOT of money to get rid of the invasive species. 

“An ox bow lake in Kinabatangan, for example, has been infested with the plant and the local folks involved in tourism activities there have spent over RM300,000 in the last five years trying to rid the lake of the fern.” – An excerpt from The Borneo Post.

But that doesn’t mean you buy or bring in decorative plants from other countries to be planted at your backyard la.

 

There’s a way to raise your plant babies responsibly

So, some of you may have already know that you can buy your plants online, especially during the MCO, from sellers on Facebook or even online shopping platforms. In fact, many decorative plants were sold like hot cakes online during the MCO.

Just Google ‘pokok bunga hidup’ and you’ll see what we mean. Screenshot from Google

Although most of the online sellers we found are local sellers, we can’t help but to also noticed that seeds of decorative plants are often sold from international sellers (read: China sellers).  So, how to know if its safe to buy from these sellers?

An easy way to do it is to ask those sellers where they get their plant supply from and if they would provide proper documentations along with the plants (yes, we’re looking at you, our Sabahan friends). There are two important documents issued by DOA- an import permit and a Phytosanitary Certificate.

A sample of a Phytosanitary Certificate. Screenshot from UNNExT Workshop on Implementation of e-SPS and Automation for Agriculture Trade Facilitation.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to yourself to ensure that you get your plant babies from proper channels. You can check out for more info on the Phytosanitary Certificate here and criteria of live plants that can be brought into Malaysia here.

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