Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong yesterday visited the paddy plantation at the Agricultural Development Area (KKP) of Lot Sengkuang, Mukim Labi, to observe several developments including a trial location for underwater exploration and a proposed dam at the nearby Sungai Rampayoh.
Accompanying the minister were Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) Hajah Tutiaty binti Haji Abdul Wahab; Acting Director of Agriculture and Agrifood Hajah Masliana Yuliah binti Abdullah; senior officers and staff from the MPRT and the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood; and members from the Mukim Consultative Council (MPM) of Mukim Labi.
Having set out from the Tropical Biodiversity Centre for the journey into Ulu Belait, the minister and delegation first made an impromptu stop at Luagan Lalak Recreational Park.
They assessed the situation of the park, which was affected by rising water levels due to heavy rainfall. They also examined its potential as another avenue for boosting tourism.
The minister said, “There are many possibilities a recreational park possesses. I would encourage those in the private sector to contribute their own ideas, which can have a beneficial impact, by way of tourism.”
The minister continued to KKP Lot Sengkuang at Mukim Labi, and was welcomed by Legislative Council member, Acting Penghulu of Mukim Labi, and Chairman of MPM Labi Yang Berhormat Hanapi bin Mohd Siput.
The delegation attended a briefing delivered by Yong Khian Fook, who leads the paddy plantation project at KKP Lot Sengkuang.
The 20.7-hectare paddy plantation will involve eight workers maintaining the fields. The total yield, using the BDR5 and MRQ76 varieties, is estimated by the MPRT to be at two metric tonnes per hectare, owing to the lack of a proper irrigation system.
After the briefing, the minister assisted in the planting of new seedlings using a paddy sowing vehicle.
The minister then visited the trial location for the underground water exploration project near the plantation, which is currently in the second phase.
The first phase was on-site investigation, through Electrical Resistivity Tomography Analysis, to assess its potential in the irrigation of the paddy plantation conveniently located near the trial location.
The second phase will begin this month with the construction of a trial well, which will undergo testing to evaluate the capacity of the underground water. The result will determine the third phase, which is the construction of a permanent well for KKP Lot Sengkuang in early August.
The minister also visited a proposed site location for the construction of a small dam at Sungai Rampayoh and inspected upgrades to irrigation systems at KKP Lot Sengkuang.
The proposed dam will help contain the flow of water from the upper stream of the river, which provides a steady source of water supply, while the upgrades to the irrigation system will also benefit the other plantations, particularly during the dry season.
In an interview, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said, “We appreciate the efforts led by Yong Khian Fook, which helps meet the demands of the nation, and that of the plantations.
“The availability of a steady source of water also ensures the possibility of planting out of season, which should provide a continuous supply to meet the nation’s food demand.”
Yong Khian Fook, a resident of Mukim Labi, meanwhile recalled how he and several workers prepared the area for cultivation, after receiving the plantation from the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood. “In April last year, we brought in the necessary machines to help clear and cultivate the land, in preparation for the paddy plantation,” he said.
“These clearing and cultivating efforts roughly cost BND35,000 per hectare, and are still ongoing, as the paddy is planted across six of the 20.7 proposed hectare of space.
“Hopefully, next season, we will continue to work on expanding, clearing and cultivating land, to fully use the allocated plantation space,” said Yong.
“As a resident, I can see its massive potential as a boon for agriculture and tourism.”