Ketum has the potential to be a huge industry which can contribute billions to the country, said Risda chairman Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin.
He said demand for ketum had come from pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the United States as they saw the advantage of the plant as an alternative to modern medicine.
"I had proposed that ketum trees be grown in a controlled manner for export due to this demand," he told reporters when met at Padang Besar Umno Aidilfitri open house in Taman Beseri Indah, here today.
His proposal was met with opposition from several parties including Perlis Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man who said the state government was strongly against the idea.
Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob too said the ministry would not allow smallholders to grow ketum trees.
"If the minister and many others are against it we will have to go with their decision in spite of the volatile rubber prices. Risda will have to look for other alternatives," said Zahidi who is also Padang Besar Umno division chief.