MPRT receives budget of over BND93M

|     Azlan Othman     |

THE Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT) has been allocated a proposed budget of BND93,000,810, which includes provisions for annual development expenditure, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong said. He was delivering remarks on his ministry’s budget at the fifth day of the 15th Legislative Council (LegCo) session yesterday.

The minister also highlighted that output from the country’s agriculture sector has increased to BND436 million in 2018 from BND365 million in 2015.

As for food self-sufficiency, Brunei has almost reached 100 per cent self-sufficiency in broiler and chicken eggs, achieved about 47 per cent self-sufficiency in vegetables, 37 per cent for vegetables, and 30 per cent in the supply of meat. It however still relies heavily on rice imports.

Output from the fisheries sector has decreased from BND110 million in 2015 to BND109 million in 2018. The decline was due to the epidemic in 2018 which forced entrepreneurs to temporarily suspend their fish farming operations for one cycle and substitute it with shrimp farming.

In the tourism sector, total tourist arrivals via air to the country increased to 278,136 in 2018 from 218,213 in 2015, Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said.

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong. – RAHWANI ZAHARI

Touching on some of the provisions of projects under the MPRT, the minister conveyed his gratitude to the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) for allowing his ministry to use the recurring budget under miscellaneous services (for projects) provided for Financial Year 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 to fund projects, such as BND900,000 to finance groundwater production in some agricultural areas in the country.

In addition, BND1 million is also allocated to finance the Lawa-Lawa project, designed to assist fishermen in their efforts to catch tuna in the Zone 3 and Zone 4 deepwater zones.

The minister noted that BND7.5 million has been allocated under the 11th National Development Plan (RKN) budget to deepen Imang Dam, the main water supplier for agricultural areas in the Brunei-Muara District.

Roughly BND13.4 million has been allocated for the development of the fisheries sector, especially aquaculture, while BND5.7 million has been set aside to increase output in vegetable farming using modern technology.

Several agricultural sites under a pilot project have also been allotted for use by individuals interested in taking up farming, part of the government’s efforts to encourage more youth to venture into the sector.

The prospective farmers will be given a plot of land for a trial period of two years to carry out their agricultural activities, with the size of the land commensurate with the type of their operations. The farmer may be allowed to increase the size of their plot and the tenancy period if they show excellent agricultural performance.

To date, 46 entrepreneurs, including 16 youth, have been offered sites under this pilot project scheme, totalling over 290 hectares of agricultural land.

The minister added that contract farming has also been introduced to ensure that farmers are able to sell their produce through long-term contracts with supermarkets and wholesalers in the country, and even export them to overseas markets. Since the programme was introduced, 11 entrepreneurs from the food crops industry have gone into contract farming with local supermarkets to market their produce.

Another development that has come to pass following the consent of 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 is the opening of a new project area for commercial paddy planting covering 500 hectares in the Kandol area in the Belait District.

“Part of the cost of implementing this project, which is about BND20 million, will be funded by investors including government-linked companies (GLCs), while the rest (about BND55 million), will be funded by the Government of His Majesty through the MoFE,” Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali said.

For the tourism sector, the minister pointed out that initiatives towards building and promoting tourism products will continue to be intensified in cooperation with the ministries concerned and other stakeholders such as airlines, excursion companies and domestic accommodation providers.

He added that preparations have also been made in anticipation of the expected increase in tourists visiting Temburong District as a result of the scheduled completion of the Temburong Bridge – which will connect Temburong District with the Brunei-Muara District – later this year.

These include the diversification of tourism products away from a sole focus on the Ulu Temburong National Park, including developing the Batang Duri and Sungai Labu sites to encourage the number of visitors visiting the areas of green activities such as jungle trekking and accommodation providers to set up there.

The MPRT, the minister added, is also working with travel agents and villagers to promote village products, including homestay facilities in Kampong Belais, which also offers river fishing activities.

Touching on employment opportunities, the minister noted that at present the Department of Agriculture and Agrifood contributes 8,293 jobs (43 per cent taken up by locals), comprising the fisheries sector with 3,235 jobs (made up of 66 per cent locals), the forestry sector with 765 jobs (22 per cent locals), and the tourism sector with 3,037 jobs (71 per cent locals).