All efforts in to overcome agriculture challenges

Azlan Othman

The nation’s food industry roadmap has identified key challenges in agriculture, such as limited basic infrastructure, lack of financial resources, technologically and in research and development (R&D), Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) Hajah Tutiaty binti Haji Abdul Wahab said.

She said this at the panel discussion ‘Roles of Education in Supporting Agricultural Sector’ at the Brunei Darussalam conference on ‘Agricultural Sector: Challenges and Way Forward’ at the International Convention Centre yesterday as part of the Mid-Year Conference and Exhibition (MYCE) 2021, moderated by Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) Chief Researcher Dr Diana Cheong.

The permanent secretary said to address these challenges, a number of strategic initiatives have been identified such as enhancing local business development and capacity, promoting high value added activities including R&D through foreign direct investment (FDI) and government linked companies (GLC) and increasing productivity and profitability which include higher educational institutions.

Hajah Tutiaty added the MPRT has begun discussions with educational institutions on R&D. “Education institutions need to focus not only on training but more on research and development to promote agriculture and better yield, and to achieve food security.”

Numerous research have been undertaken in agriculture, such as soil study and impact of climate change, Hajah Tutiaty said.

Permanent Secretary at the MPRT Hajah Tutiaty binti Haji Abdul Wahab with panellists during the conference. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

She said the use of fertigation and hydroponic help to reduce the use of water, pesticides and fertiliser; results in a higher productivity; brings food prices down as well as reduces the impact on the ecosystem and the release of chemicals into the river.

On educational challenges, Hajah Tutiaty said the department continues to provide technical advice and expertise, technology transfer, continuous monitoring and consultancy services.

The farmers, who need to recruit experts for their farms, find it challenging as these experts may not be in the country, she said.

Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) Associate Professor Dr Hajah Rose binti Abdullah highlighted the history of agriculture education in
the country.

She identified gaps in the industry, such as breeding, irrigation, business management, diseases, soil management, human resources, post-harvest and marketing.

She also highlighted the timeline of programmes set up by UNISSA in agriculture, emphasising on the establishment of the Faculty of Agriculture this year to agribusiness in 2021-2022, agrotech in 2022-2023 to horticulture in 2023-2024, aquaculture 2024-2025, animal husbandry in 2025-2026 to veterinary in 2026-2027.

Institute of Brunei Technical of Education (IBTE) CEO Dr Haji Mohd Zamri bin Haji Sabli said as the population increases, the number of mouths to feed will also rise.

“As the world gets warmer with less rain, irrigation will be a challenge for agriculture,” she said, adding that 5,000 litres of water is used to produce a kilogramme of paddy while also 20 per cent of greenhouse gas.