The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) is looking to produce hybrid paddy that can produce up to eight metric tonnes of rice per hectare, strengthening the agriculture sector and enriching farmers, said Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong responding to Legislative Council (LegCo) member Yang Berhormat Haji Tahamit bin Haji Nudin’s query on the need to use the latest technology and reduce the import of commodity products during the 17th LegCo session yesterday.
The minister revealed that previously Beras Laila only produced two to three metric tonnes per hectare and Beras Sembada, an output between four and six metric tonnes per hectare. Therefore, the MPRT is emphasising the use of modern technology in farming to increase yield.
Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali also said fertigation as a method in agriculture reduces space and energy while increasing output in a consistent and safely manner due to the controlled use of pesticides adding that, “greenhouse style of farming is also safer in the absence of pesticides”.
He said, “Although it requires a larger capital, it is the Department of Agriculture and Agrifoods’ direction to increase quality and safe production for consumption. The Internet of Things (IoT) technology in farming has also been introduced to ensure an adequate amount of fertiliser and water is used for every tree.”
He shared that 8,000 hectares of land have been allocated for agricultural activities, although only 4,000 hectares are being used due to certain restraints such as hilly terrains, forests and flood-prone areas.
Speaking on the marketing aspects, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said the MPRT has teamed up with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to organise Pasar Kitani at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas every Sunday for farmers from as far as Labi and Temburong to sell their produce.
“We plan to extend the operation hours until afternoon, and to include Fridays and Saturdays as well,” the minister said.
On youth involvement in agriculture, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said trainings are available for them to be commercially engaged through the Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE).
He added, “Undergraduates from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) are also conducting extensive research on agriculture and fisheries in ensuring quality production and increase in output.”
On a query by Yang Berhormat Iswandy bin Ahmad on the cheaper agriculture project for youth called Projek Pertanian Muda Murah, the minister said such affordable techniques were introduced three years ago to allow groups such as single mothers and underprivileged families to venture into farming.
“They do farming activities in Kampong Ayer using low-cost materials such as used plastic bottles in an initiative carried out jointly with the Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) and the Islamic Da’wah Centre,” he said.