Concerted efforts are being made by the government to improve Brunei Darussalam’s food security in the long term and create employment opportunities for the youth through the agricultural sector. The government has pledged to open up more farmland and provide support towards galvanising the industry further.
In 2018, Brunei’s gross agriculture output has increased by BND56.65 million to BND436.30 million on the back of growing amounts of livestock, better development irrigation system and cooperation with other countries.
Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Paduka Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong recently shared that Brunei’s total agricultural output – including crops, livestock and agrifood-related processing – has increased from BND93 million to BND380 million in the past two decades. Aquaculture took the big chunk, expanding at a rate of 14.3 per cent annually and increasing from BND2 million in 1998 to BND22 million in 2017.
In terms of food self-sufficiency, Brunei has almost reached 100 per cent self-sufficiency in poultry, achieved about 47 per cent self-sufficiency in vegetables, 37 per cent for vegetables, and 30 per cent in the supply of meat. It however still relies heavily on rice imports from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam which make up around 30,000 tonnes annually.
Despite the agriculture industry’s small contribution to the nation’s GDP, making up 0.54 per cent in 2017, moving forward, the minister said that the government’s agriculture focus will be on increasing farming productivity by making use of advanced technology. The ministry will also focus on exploring downstream and added value agrifood processing for the domestic and international markets.
In June 2019, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, in a titah highlighted that more than 300 hectares of land has been developed for farming under a special pilot project. The project aimed to boost the agricultural output to meet local needs as well as for export.
To date, 46 entrepreneurs, including 16 youth, have been offered sites under this pilot project scheme, totalling over 290 hectares of agricultural land.
His Majesty, who stressed on the importance of the farming sector and achieving food self-sufficiency for the nation’s survivability, said that as opportunities in agriculture are already open wide, and it should be pursued by anyone. His Majesty also underscored that there can be “no more excuses” for the nation to delay the development of its agriculture sector, as he announced a new 500-hectare rice field in Belait.
The launching of Brunei’s biggest commercial paddy field, combined with higher yielding varieties of paddy are geared towards helping the country meet its rice self-sufficiency target of 11 per cent by 2020.
The 500-hectare plot set aside in the Belait’s inner, rural south that marked its first planting season in October 2019 is expected to produce between 6,000 to 8,000 tonnes of paddy annually by 2025. It is estimated to contribute 11 per cent to 15 per cent of Brunei’s rice requirements once it is fully operational.
The plot is focussed on cultivation using Brunei’s highest yielding hybrid varieties, namely Sembada188 which is capable of yielding six tonnes per hectare, followed by Titih which can yield eight tonnes per hectare. There will be upgrades and expansions of dams and other projects to improve irrigation and drainage systems.
Work is also being done with research institutes from China and the Philippines to produce higher yielding varieties and maximise land utilisation.
At a ceremony to mark the second harvest of the Sembada 188 high-yield paddy seed variety at the Kampong Wasan Agricultural Development Area (KKP) recently, the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism said that they successfully doubled the output to about six tonnes of rice per hectare for the harvest season through the introduction of better irrigation, agro-technology and high-yield rice strains.
Despite the success in doubling the output, the minister stressed that they will not be complacent and will strive to offer higheryield paddy varieties to farmers, particularly through the Titih variety that is still in its trial phase and expected to produce up to eight tonnes per hectare.
He also said that the ministry is seeking higher-yield paddy varieties through research and collaboration with various parties including higher education institutions locally and abroad to determine the best method of paddy farming for Brunei’s soil.
The minister stressed that their main focus now is to boost the yield per hectare. He said this will largely depend on the paddy variety and also good farming management and techniques which should not be neglected.
The Agricultural Development Area (KKP) of Kandol will be operated by a new, wholly government-owned company under Darussalam Assets called PaddyCo. The first plots being farmed in Kandol is managed by PaddyCo. The remaining three will be done as a trial collaboration with Indonesia’s Syarikat PT. Biogene Plantation serves as PaddyCo’s overall technical partner for three planting seasons.
The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) is committed to boost research in higher yielding varieties and monitoring other issues which affect Brunei’s paddy farmers such as soil acidity, fertility, irrigation and unpredictable weather to ensure the country’s rice industry is on the right track.
Brunei offers many opportunities for youth to explore the agriculture industry. There are two programmes available: Contract Farming and Pilot Project. The government provides farm sites and advisory services. Seeds, fertiliser and pesticides are also provided.
In the Contract Farming programme, 20 hectares of farmland have been allocated for entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the Pilot Project programme is based on trial practice on a small plot of land. To be eligible, participants must come up with a feasible proposal. If successful, participants will be given a farm to be developed over two years. Participants who meet the criteria may continue their two-year lease and expand their farm.
A number of schools in Brunei conduct programmes that explore cost-effective agricultural methods. Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Secondary SchooI is the first school to practise the fertigation system for chili planting in Brunei. Fertigation is a cultivation method where plants are fertilised through an irrigation system. The programme equips pre-vocational graduates with skills in agriculture, financial management and marketing.
MPRT also organises programmes that explore modern farming techniques such as hydroponics and the greenhouse system. These programmes attract young people and graduates to venture into the modern farming business.
In February 2019, MPRT launched a farming course for young local farmers. A total of 31 youth were selected to join the programme. Participants attended talks on agricultural technology, pest and disease control and financial management. Attachments are available at selected companies.
Local farmers are encouraged to obtain the Brunei Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certificate. Brunei GAP is a national standard for vegetable and fruit crops, introduced by the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood in 2014 to boost the potential of local farms. The certificate helps Bruneian farmers to compete in regional and international markets.
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