According to the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, in 2019, Brunei Darussalam’s gross agriculture output increased by BND56.65 million to BND428.89 million, contributed by increasing livestock, development in the irrigation system and cooperation with other countries.
Over the past two decades, the country’s total agricultural output – crops, livestock and agrifood-related processing – increased from BND127 million to BND429 million, said Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong. Aquaculture took the big chunk, expanding at a rate of 11.53 per cent annually and increasing from BND2.1 million in 1998 to BND16.7 million in 2017.
In terms of food self-sufficiency, Brunei has reached almost 100 per cent self-sufficiency in poultry, achieved about 47 per cent in vegetables, 37 per cent for fruits, and 30 per cent in the supply of meat.
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.
The need for Brunei to develop its agricultural field has been previously highlighted by 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.
Through the relevant ministries and His Majesty’s consent, several initiatives have been implemented to spur growth in the sector. Among them is a pilot project, that involves the allocation of sites for preliminary trials. His Majesty has also consented to the opening of a 500-hectare area in Kandol for rice cultivation. Once fully operational, it will be the largest paddy estate in Brunei.
The planting of Sembada 188 seedlings on October 28, 2019 by His Majesty marked the official start of the commercial rice farm in the Agricultural Development Area (KKP) of Kandol. During the 2018/2019 season, around two tonnes of Sembada 188 seeds were sown, leading to satisfactory results and an additional order of up to 15 tonnes of seeds for Brunei’s commercial rice fields in the 2019/2020 season.
PaddyCo, a company under Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd, oversees the project while PT Biogene Plantation provides technical support, including knowledge transfer to local farmers regarding Sembada 188 cultivation methods. On May 21, 2020, the minister shared the success of the first harvest at KKP Kandol, which totalled at 21.7 tonnes across seven hectares of land. The yield in the first quarter of 2020 was recorded at 1,801.28 tonnes. This is an increase of 36 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019.
Two seasons of rice production have been completed at KKP Kandol. The third rice planting season began in November 2020, with a total area of about 30 hectares.
The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) strives to offer higher-yield paddy varieties to farmers, particularly through the Titih variety that is still in its trial phase. The Titih variety is expected to produce up to eight tonnes per hectare.
MPRT also continues to seek higher-yield paddy varieties by collaborating with higher education institutions locally and abroad, as well as through strategic partnerships with research institutions such as the International Rice Research Institute and Yuan Longping High Tech Agriculture Co Ltd from the People’s Republic of China. The launch 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. The target under the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood strategic plan has been revised and extended until 2022.
Brunei offers many opportunities for the youth to explore the agriculture industry. There are five pathways to apply for Agricultural Development Area: pilot project; through advertisement; expansion programme; request for proposal; and foreign direct investment (FDI). Farm sites and advisory services are provided by the government.
Seeds, fertiliser and pesticides are also provided. 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 extend their contract and apply for site expansion.
To date, 80 entrepreneurs including 31 youth have been offered sites under this pilot project scheme, totalling over 469 hectares of agricultural land.
Thirty-nine companies currently fall under the pilot project scheme under the fruit industry, which covers a total land area of 470.35 hectares across Brunei. These companies produce various kinds of seasonal and non-seasonal fruits.
As for the vegetable industry, a total land area of 29 hectares have been occupied by 14 companies.
MPRT also organises programmes that explore modern farming techniques such as hydroponics and the greenhouse system to attract young people and graduates to venture into modern farming business.
Local farmers are encouraged to obtain the Brunei Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certificate. The Brunei GAP is a standard created based on the ASEAN GAP, which focusses on food safety and product quality.
The standard aims to ensure that all vegetable and fruit produce in the country is safe to be consumed and fulfils standards for export to the international market.
The Brunei GAP farm certification programme has been carried out by the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, MPRT since 2014.
The Underground Water Well Project at Lot Sengkuang Agricultural Development Area (KKP) is expected to be capable of drawing 12m3 of water, which equates to 12,000 litres daily. Carried out in three phases, the project is aimed at providing irrigation to the nearby paddy plantation. The water can be stored in tanks for use during the dry season. The project is carried out by MPRT through the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood with the collaboration of Preston Geocem (B). Construction began on June 2, 2020 and was completed on September 14, 2020. The 300-hectare KKP Lot Sengkuang paddy plantation is one of the major paddy plantation fields in Brunei.
Speaking during a visit to KKP Lot Sengkuang in Belait District in October 2020, the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism said the project is an important step in realising His Majesty’s vision in ensuring the nation’s food security.
“Having plenty of water to cultivate paddy is very important, and there are challenges in acquiring large and consistent amounts of water. Here in Kampong Labi, we are successful in drawing out the water that will be distributed across the paddy plantation to enable them to plant highyield paddy twice a year, where previously it was only possible once a year,” he said.
The minister said the well will ensure that paddy plantation farmers are not just reliant on rainfall to ensure a successful harvest.
He also expressed hopes that projects such as these will be conducted at other plantations to ensure an alternative and consistent source of water that can result in a yield increase during harvest.
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