BRUNEI-MUARA – Armed with only a bucket and a face mask, you can find Hj Bakar Hj Berudin spending the early morning hours in one of his many duck coops, in a pair of yellow boots and blue gloves crouching down to collect freshly laid duck eggs.
Like many Bruneians of his generation growing up in the 1960s, he is no stranger to the farmer’s life. From the age of six, he would tend to his family’s backyard farm, raising chickens to supplement his pocket money.
“Back then, I was only given 20 or 30 cents a day for pocket money and I would approach relatives for chicks for me to raise,” he says.
“I raised around four to five chicks at a time and once they matured, I would sell them and then repeat the process all over again.”
Fast forward to the present, Hj Bakar is now the successful owner of Perusahaan BHB, which specialises in making salted duck eggs.
With some 15 years in the poultry industry, the 61 year-old now raises more than 3,000 ducks on five hectares of land in Jerudong, which was granted by the government as part of efforts to support the agriculture sector.
Every two to three days, the company sends out more than 1,800 salted eggs to several branches of Sim Kim Huat supermarket in Brunei-Muara and Tutong.
But he still considers this a modest achievement.
“When I was a little, even though I enjoyed raising animals, I never saw myself becoming a successful poultry farmer. But even back then I always dreamt of being a successful entrepreneur.”
RAISING FOWL, GROWING A BUSINESS
In 2003, Hj Bakar’s first foray into the poultry industry was in the highly competitive chicken market.
“For almost ten years it was more of a struggle than anything else. The market for chicken meat and egg production was dominated by bigger companies such as Soon Lee and MZ, it was a market that was very hard to breach.”
With the chicken farm struggling, Hj Bakar was determined to find a way to turn a profit — he saw a gap in the market and decided to switch from chicken to duck farming.
In 2008 he finally took the plunge, starting out with just eight Local Borneo ducks — six female and two male.
“For two years, we were conducting research and development — like how many eggs can each duck produce in a month. From the eight ducks we started with, by 2010 the number increased to 350,” says the poultry farmer.
Along with his five workers, Hj Bakar began to expand his flock to include other fowl and duck breeds, such as the highly sought-after Peking duck, as well as turkeys and geese.
Between 2010 and 2014, the former accountant focused on learning the ins and outs of duck farming, making visits to Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia to gain “much needed knowledge”.
By 2014, his flock had reached more than a thousand ducks and the farm was ready to run on a commercial scale.
For the first two years of production, it only sold duck eggs until Peking ducks and other fowl were introduced into the fold.
“The turkeys in particular are very profitable. We sell around 10 to 20 turkeys every week… on average a whole turkey will cost around $30 to $40,” says Hj Bakar.
With plans to expand the business, he says he is still plotting how to maximise the farm’s production.
“With the current flock [production has] increased to around 900 to 1, 000 eggs per day, compared last year at 600 to 700 a day.
“On any given day, only 50 per cent of my ducks will lay eggs but that is not enough… [we want to increase it] to 80 per cent in the future.”
By 2020, Hj Bakar wants the farm to be able to meet local demand for salted eggs by supplying at least 5,000 per day.
And if the salted egg food trend is here to stay, he may find business booming.