Brunei’s food self-sufficiency within reach

James Kon

Brunei Darussalam is expecting to achieve 100 per cent self-sufficiency in beef, buffalo meat and chicken eggs in 2021 while the country can expect to be fully self-sufficient and chicken by 2022, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong said during his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the conference ‘Agricultural Sector: Challenges and Way Forward’ yesterday.

He added that the country is expected to be 70 per cent self-sufficient in mutton by this year compared to 17 per cent in 2020.

“Self-sufficiency in tropical vegetables is expected to reach 67 per cent, tropical food 46 per cent and paddy eight per cent,” said the minister.

Held at Musyawarah Room, International Convention Centre, the minister was speaking as the guest of honour on the development of the agriculture and agrifood sector over the past 20 years.

“As we know, the oil and gas sector has become a major contributor to the country’s economy, accounting for around 60 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

“Agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors only contributed one per cent of the GDP while the agriculture sector only contributed 0.46 per cent of the GDP with the value of around BND86.7 million,” said Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali.

The minister said although the agricultural sector contribution to the economy is still low, the sector has shown encouraging signs of development.

The minister said, “We have seen a rapid increase in the value of gross product of the agricultural sector from BND183 million in 2000 to BND471 million in 2020. The main contributor to agricultural production is the livestock sector at 57 per cent, followed by the agrifood sector at 32 per cent and crop sector at 11 per cent.”

He said in conjunction with the seminar, a book entitled The Development of Agriculture, Agrifood and Fisheries in the Last 20 Years by the MPRT has been published to document the development and achievement of the agriculture and agrifood sectors between 2000 and 2020.

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong delivers his keynote address.
PHOTOS: JAMES KON
Attendees at the conference

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said in an effort to continuously increase the agricultural sector’s output to meet the country’s needs, there has been an increase in agricultural land from 15 hectares in 2010 to 411.65 hectares in 2020.

He said from the total land area of 8,240 hectares gazetted under the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood, the MPRT approved 41 per cent of land for various agricultural activities, including plantation and livestock.

“Twenty per cent is used for other agricultural activities such as reservoirs, ridges and buffer zones while the remaining 39 per cent is to be offered to farmers for development and addition of areas,” he said.

On the Economic Blueprint published on January 6, the minister said, “The agriculture sector is hoped to provide employment opportunities as well as take advantage of the latest technologies that are in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0).

“A Food Strategy Roadmap was also prepared to increase safe, Halal and high-quality food production to strengthen the value chain and contribute to economic growth, food security and export.”

The minister believed that the country is in need of more entrepreneurs to venture into agriculture activities commercially through large-scale production.

The MPRT has taken key measures to overcome low production by ensuring that farmers fully cultivate the land given to maximise production by using the best crop types and livestock breeding, appropriate technology, and modern farming and commercial production techniques as well as the use of greenhouses for high-value crops.

As an improvement measure, he said, “Farmers need to be provided guidance and training in efficient agricultural management and best agricultural practices, as well as the use of modern technology.”

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said another major challenge in the agricultural industry is financial; huge investment is required in leveraging the use of modern technology.

“Some farmers and entrepreneurs face difficulties in obtaining the capital needed to start or grow the business.”

To overcome the challenge, he said, related agencies must work together to help entrepreneurs through clear and consistent guidelines to meet funding requirements.

The minister added that the MPRT has held discussions with several financial institutions, including local banks and other agencies such as DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) and Badan Tanmiah Harta Majlis Ugama Islam to assist and support entrepreneurs in obtaining funds.

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said, “Another challenge is related to the lack of research, the lack of local experts and the lack of technical skills in the agriculture and agrifood sector to support the development and increase in agricultural production.”

The minister said close collaboration with local higher education institutions or cooperation from foreign universities and research institutions is encouraged to ensure more research is focussed on addressing problems faced by local farmers and entrepreneurs.

In an effort to further strengthen research activities in agriculture and agrifood, the MPRT has initiated collaboration with Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Universiti Teknologi Brunei, and Universiti Sultan Sharif Ali to explore potentials for collaboration as well as opportunities for involvement in research benefitting the agriculture and agrifood industries, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said.

The minister also touched on the success in utilising groundwater resources in the paddy cultivation area of Kampong Labi in Belait District.

“The groundwater pumping system, which is produced using solar energy, is expected to reduce the government’s expenditure in providing irrigation systems to farmers.”

He also said there are enterprises engaged in compost manufacturing using livestock manure.

“A local company has started collecting waste from the livestock industry and turning it into organic fertiliser. This can help crop farmers obtain cheaper organic fertiliser and solving the acidic soil problem in the country.”