His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam delivering his titah and officiating the launch of Kandol padi as His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen look on during the Kandol padi launch at Kandol, Belait on 28/10/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Building strong sustenance via the agriculture sector remains an important agenda for Brunei, with various projects already in motion to bring the sultanate up to its expected self-sustainability rate.

Within the span of only several years, various stakeholders including those from the government and the private sector were mobilised towards developing Brunei’s agricultural sector – and all of them are doubled well, speeding up the country right to its Vision 2035.

His Majesty’s wish

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam continued to put greater emphasis on exploring more resources and developing them to become the source of dependence alongside the oil and gas sector.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office operating rice planting machines during the Kandol padi launch at Kandol, Belait on 28/10/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The Sultan has stressed this numerous times, through several occasions that depending on oil and gas is unwise, considering how volatile and uncertain the market is.

The monarch had always maintained a firm stance for Brunei to explore untapped areas, especially in agriculture – which he regarded as being paramount to the country’s chance to survive in the future.

“It is not practical for countries that still have untapped lands, still receiving rain, to continue importing necessities like food without making an effort to produce them on their own,” the monarch said in one of his titah last year.

Another step for Bruneians to further agriculture, said His Majesty, is to utilise technology, which has been proven to increase agricultural output for various countries in the early 20th century.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen being given a tour of the exhibitions during the Kandol padi launch at Kandol, Belait on 28/10/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

The monarch also encouraged businesses, especially the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to explore and develop strong eco-system, particularly in any of the agricultural fields.

Introduction of high-yielding padi strains

The planting of Sembada 188 in Wasan that was inaugurated by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam was meant to bring the country’s rice-sufficiency rate to 11 percent by this year.

The new strand originating from Indonesia is expected to yield six metric tonnes of padi per hectare per season – double the amount produced by Padi Laila, another high-yielding strain previously introduced into the sultanate.

At the planting event, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong said that the new strain could increase Brunei’s annual padi production up to 6,000 metric tonnes by this year.

Minister Primary Resources and Tourism YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Ali Apong (C) and Minister of Development YB Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar (R) inspecting the new rice cultivation site. Image: Waqiuddin Rajak

This, however, can only be achieved if all the strain is being used by all farmers across every corner of their plantation.

Despite starting to plant the new strain, the minister also said that the authorities will continue to seek better varieties that could give higher yields.

Rice planting developments

More land will be opened for commercial rice farming with the latest being opened was Kandol; the 500-hectare plot of land spanning across Mukim Bukit Sawat in Belait.

The government opened up these lands to local farmers with hopes that they will start farming high-yielding rice varieties.

Kandol alone, said officials in a previous report, is expected to produce up to 8,000 tonnes of padi per year, once it becomes operable. 

This, in turn, contributes up to 15 per cent to Brunei’s rice sufficiency rate.

The site is currently managed by a wholly government-owned firm PaddyCo, who will make use of the latest Sembada 188 variety that is capable of producing up to six tonnes per hectare per season.

A rice planting machine seen during the Kandol padi launch at Kandol, Belait on 28/10/19. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

PaddyCo’s Operations Manager Fuziah Hj Hamdan previously shared that future plans for Kandol include building a mill once more than 200 hectares of farm plots are usable.

The government had also harvested the first padi seedlings from the Kandol rice cultivation site earlier this month.

Additionally, a 1000-hectare of land in Buau, further into Ulu Belait had also been scouted for future rice plantation development plan, which may follow suit after Kandol is completely developed.

This article was first published on February 23, 2020 in our National Day Supplement

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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