Harnessing potential of the land

Daniel Lim

While the Mukim Labi area and the surrounding Ulu Belait are mostly seen as lush and dense forests, some call them home.

Despite the distance between the area and city centres, this has not stopped its development especially in tourism and agriculture, as the land is a prime location for expansion and a vista to appreciate a variety of flora and fauna.

One such example to showcase the potential of the surrounding area of Mukim Labi is an effort by local food producer Yong Khian Fook.

In an interview following the officiating of the Agricultural Development Area (KKP) of Lot Sengkuang, Mukim Labi, he spoke about why he ventured into the business.

“It all began in 1991 with the planting of several crops, one of which we started was Labi Mandarin, though due to some difficulty we had encountered, it was not successful as over 5,000 trees were killed due to a disease,” he said.

“One day, I started planting coffee beans,” he said, noting that this was also backed by his two-year experience in roasting coffee beans during his schooling years.

Beverage made from the coffee beans harvested from local food producer Yong Khian Fook’s plantation. PHOTO: DANIEL LIM

He said with the rising demand for quality coffee beans and the resurgence of the coffee movement, more people are now appreciative of the quality of coffee. With the opening of artisan cafes across the nation and the world, the opportunity was there for the taking.

“I started planting coffee beans in 2012, and with the experience that I have gained over the years, I built Pertanian Tropikal Utama to help cultivate the area for coffee plantation.”

He expanded his knowledge during his participation in a conference in Vietnam in 2016 to learn more about coffee cultivation.

“I was delighted to join the conference where I met representatives from other countries.”

He continued to expand his scope into paddy plantation. He shared one similarity between the two plantations: The importance of implementing technology into agriculture to ensure larger crop yield and allow staff to utilise their time on the field to meet the changing seasons.

Reflecting on the progress that he has made, he was very grateful to 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 and the government, for supporting the initiatives.

“We want to showcase Brunei internationally,” he said. “But we have to first ensure sufficient supply locally before considering exporting overseas.”

He also recalled the time he spent growing up, noting that the slow development in Labi at the time compared to other places was a concern for him.

“I think Labi has the potential to be a centre of agriculture in Brunei,” he said.

Yong said with the growth and developments over the years, plantations across Labi can also be a tourism hub.

He hopes this can help Brunei realise the Brunei Vision 2035.